State-of-the-art technology has revealed the previously invisible climate change impact of gas and coal production in Australia for the first time at this scale.
International experts have documented the reality of alarming levels of climate-damaging gas pollution escaping from more than 100 sources at 35 industrial sites in Queensland and NSW as part of a field investigation with the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The optical gas imaging (OGI) technology, which uses a special filter to pick up methane’s infrared energy and make it visible on a screen, captured footage of extensive leaking at facilities run by Santos, Origin and gas pipeline company Jemena.
The field trip – a joint initiative of the global non-profit Clean Air Task Force and the Australian Conservation Foundation – visited coal mines and gas facilities in June and found:
“These findings reinforce fears that emissions of methane – the major component of so-called ‘natural gas’ which has more than 80 times the global warming impact of CO2 over a short time horizon – are well above reported levels,” said ACF’s lead investigator Annica Schoo.
“Our field trip showed leaking and venting of this invisible, highly potent gas is widespread.
“But 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.
“Methane emissions are believed to account for about 30% of the global temperature rise since the industrial revolution.
“We documented methane leaks at every stage of the gas extraction and distribution process.
“The fact is, we just don’t know how much climate-heating methane is leaking from coal and gas in Australia because the regulations are so weak and under-reporting is rife.
“The best science says Australia needs to cut methane emissions by 75% by 2030, so we call on the Albanese government to put a hold on all new coal and gas approvals pending an accurate determination of the CO2 and methane that is coming from coal and gas facilities.
“The government must establish a methane action plan that requires companies to accurately measure and report on methane emissions, install methane abatement technology at existing facilities and rehabilitate leaking abandoned mines.
“The plan should require companies to find and fix leaks as soon as they can.”
The methane footage was captured by Théophile Humann-Guilleminot, a certified Level 1 Infrared Thermographer with the Clean Air Task Force, using a FLIR GF320 camera.
“Our joint fieldwork with the Australian Conservation Foundation reveals the extent of methane pollution in NSW and Queensland gas and coal operations,” he said.
“In particular, the Talinga and Condomine gas field, operated by Origin, was the most shocking: wherever I pointed my camera, I saw methane pouring out of the equipment, sometimes from three to four different point sources.
“In times of heated debates on energy cost, seeing all this gas wasted and supercharging climate change is deeply worrying.
“I have personally undertaken methane fieldwork in eight countries and filmed at more than 250 fossil fuel sites. Doing this work in Australia was on another level.”
A new report by Rennie Advisory, released today, compares methane regulation in Australia with six other jurisdictions and sets out three key policy actions that would start to curb methane emissions from the fossil fuel sector in Australia.