Well, well, well... it’s rehabilitation time

AGL is making plans for the company’s rehabilitation of its coal seam gas sites but is not yet ready to submit it to the NSW Department of Resources and Energy (DRE). 

The plan’s specifications must apply for its wells in the Camden project (to be closed by 2023) as well those in Gloucester. 

There are 15 gas wells and approximately 40 water monitoring bores (subject to discussions with landholders) in Gloucester and 48 of 144 wells in Camden ready to be rehabilitated. 

AGL’s plan must be signed off by the DRE and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and will be discussed with affected landholders. Properties will need to be offloaded, and discussions with landholders through whose properties the pipeline corridor to Newcastle was to run, will be contacted. 

Decommissioning is undertaken to standards set in the NSW Government’s Code of Practice for Coal Seam Gas (Well Integrity) which requires “the environmentally sound and safe isolation of the well, protection of groundwater resources, isolation of the productive formations from other formations, and the proper removal of surface equipment.”

An EPA spokesperson said it is working on a general fact sheet for the public which specifies what rehabilitation will look like at any site in NSW. Following this, it will “be able to let the community know what the steps are for the long-term.”

The EPA’s director of gas regulation Carmen Dwyer said there are also site-specific conditions, listed on various legal titles and approvals, which must be met before a company’s security bond can be returned. The rehabilitation act itself cannot cause any environmental issues.

AGL’s plan will include everything from its dams to monitoring sites and wells. 

At this stage the company has released its own basic well rehabilitation guide, where the well-head is removed to place purpose-specific cement inside the well in stages, from the bottom to the top. The impermeable cement seals the wellbore, adding to well casing which currently features several layers of steel and cement. The well casing is cut off at least 1.5 metres below the surface to avoid future interference with agricultural and other future land uses. A steel cap, containing data such as the name of the well, the exact location, the well depth and when it was decommissioned, is attached to the top of the casing and the data recorded.

To speak to the EPA’s gas regulation branch ring 131 555 to discuss any concerns. In the meantime, it’s business as usual. 

The EPA was on-site in Gloucester last week conducting its regular inspections.

“The EPA will play a vital role in ensuring that the decommissioning of the Gloucester Gas Project meets all relevant legal requirements including strict environmental rehabilitation standards,” it said in a statement.

Details around AGL’s $2 million fund for Gloucester are yet to be confirmed but will involve community representatives and local government.

“We will lead the process, but it’s all still being nailed down,” AGL’s spokesperson said.

A public meeting with senior AGL executives is being held tonight from 6.30pm at the Senior Citizens Centre in Gloucester.