Farmer fears blowout if fracking gets go-ahead

BURRELL Creek resident Bruce Robertson is an analyst turned farmer who holds grave fears for the safety of Gloucester locals as AGL moves to frack four coal seam gas (CSG) wells.

Mr Robertson, a key player in the fight to stop TransGrid proceeding with its controversial Stroud to Lansdowne project, spoke with the Wingham Chronicle about his concerns.

“The wells are just 300m from people’s homes,” he said.

Mr Robertson said research he had done had revealed a gas blowout 300m from a well in 2004. 

He is concerned that similar blowouts could occur if the State government permits AGL to go ahead with its plans to frack.

“The wells at Waukivory are right on the main fault that lies in the valley. There are some 50 homes within 2km of AGL’s wells and the project is just 600m from the Forbesdale rural residential estate,” Mr Robertson said.

An AGL spokeswoman said the incident in 2004 was prior to the company’s involvement in the area. 

“It was noted in our environmental assessment of 2009 and mitigation activities are now planned to avoid any similar incident in the future. Once the bore was sealed there have been no further issues,” she said.

“AGL can assure the community that we will be working closely with the mining industry and the Office of Coal Seam Gas to identify all former coal exploration bore holes and ensure all well bore holes are identified, properly cemented and sealed prior to any fracture stimulation or flow testing proposed in the Waukivory pilot program. 

“This will include cementing off nine small diameter core holes drilled by earlier mining companies (1970 and 1980s) which were not cemented and sealed.” 

But Mr Robertson is not convinced this will be enough. 

“AGL is fracking these wells in a densely settled area. Families and farmers will be working and living within close proximity to the four wells,” he said.

“Many locals may be using naked flames such as gas hot water systems, gas cook-tops or indeed a farmer out welding.”

He said the State government should introduce buffer zones around the wells. 

“There has already been gas leaking some 300m from the well head, not at some distant location such as Roma or Chinchilla in Queensland, not overseas, but right here at Gloucester,” he said. 

“Surely a company of AGL’s stature would not wish to risk the lives of locals?”

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