Working to protect our climate from further destruction is something that motivates us everyday. It’s one of the major reasons we’ve taken up the fight against methane emissions in Australia.

A potent and fast-acting greenhouse gas, methane is known as a sneaky gas because it’s both colourless and odourless making it hard to see or detect. Because of this, our coal and gas industries have been able to hide the impact of their methane emissions for years.

To uncover more, ACF’s Investigations Unit recently took part in a field trip, alongside the Clean Air Task Force, travelling to coal mines and gas facilities throughout Queensland and NSW.

Group shot with FLIR camera

Kim Garratt (ACF), Chris Wright (Ember), Annika Reynolds (Ember), Martine Lappan (ACF). Front: Cath Blakey (Councillor, City of Wollongong), Kaye Osborn (Protect Our Water Alliance (POWA)), Théophile Humann-Guilleminot (Clean Air Task Force), Maggie Mckeown (Sunrise Project) and Harkiran Narulla (Sunrise Project) with the FLIR GF320 camera.

With the use of optical gas imaging (OGI) technology, the team discovered:

  • Alarming levels of climate-damaging gas pollution escaping from more than 100 sources at 35 industrial sites.
  • 25 visible leaks/vents along Jemena’s JGN and Darling Downs pipelines.
  • 10 visible leaks/vents from Origin’s coal seam gas wells and Shell/QGC gas-gathering pipelines in Queensland.
  • Methane being vented from four of the seven Santos’ coal seam gas wells surveyed in the Pilliga/Bibblewindi forest in NSW.
  • Multiple cases of continuous venting at the APA-operated compressor station at the Wallumbilla Gas Hub.

Example of emissions for FLIR camera.

Emissions picked up on FLIR GF320 camera during field trip.

This investigation shows fossil fuel projects across the country are leaking and venting this highly potent gas at every stage of the extraction and distribution process.

It also reinforced our fears that methane emissions are under-reported, which is caused by weak government regulations.

Australia is a signatory of the Global Methane Pledge, which means we need to contribute to the global goal of reducing methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. A science-based target would be 75% by 2030.

Take our methane quiz to learn more!

But reports find Australia’s coal mines and gas production could be more than 60% higher than what’s been reported in federal government estimates. And with new coal and gas projects in various stages of approval, the chances of Australia fulfilling its commitments are slim.

Imagine of emissions through FLIR camera.

Another example of emissions seen through the FLIR camera.

In our recent report, conducted by Rennie Advisory, three key policy actions are outlined to help curb methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector in Australia:

  1. Methane reduction targets – specific to the gas and coal industries (supporting a national methane target), considering both input and output targets, aligned to a 1.5°C pathway.
  2. Methane emissions regulations and price signals – a national combination of prescriptive emissions standards for equipment and practices (including monitoring, reporting and verification), and clear price signals that drive additional industry investment beyond what is mandatory. These could be delivered through the augmentation of legislated environmental protection and fossil fuel industry regulations, and the specific inclusion of methane in policies such as the Safeguard Mechanism.
  3. Collaboration – government and industry partnerships, both nationally and internationally building upon the Global Methane Pledge, to support innovative and efficient solutions.

Australia is at the back of the global pack when it comes to methane mitigation, with regulations too weak to stop companies releasing methane freely from their facilities.

Reducing methane emissions is one of the quickest ways to slow climate change. It is also critical, globally and in Australia, for keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees.

ACF is determined to continue the fight against this major climate change driver, with our Investigations team already rising to the challenge. Let’s work together to change the future of methane emissions in Australia and hold coal and gas companies accountable for harming our climate and environment.

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Annica Schoo

Lead Environmental Investigator, ACF