CSG response from Santos

In this response to the ABC Four Corners expose on coal seam gas, Santos managing director David Knox rejects the claims that insufficient baseline data and other environmental considerations were submitted during the application process.

This part of the unfolding story is here

"There was a very extensive set of groundwater studies done" Mr Knox said.

"The process from our side was run with the highest level of integrity."

There are now two very opposing positions relating to the assessment and approval process. 

One being the Queensland government's own assessment office (or perhaps that of Simone Marsh, the whistleblower), and the other being the companies (or more specifically, just Santos at this time) involved in extracting coal seam gas. 

So, who is telling the truth?

The former assessment officer turned whistleblower, or the Santos managing director. Or both.

Greens leader Christine Milne says that it's time for Santos to make available all its scientific studies for peer review. Fair enough. And why not? More on this later.

Revealing its sensitivity about the allegations on Four Corners, Santos apparently took out full page newspaper advertisements two days after GAS LEAK! was aired disputing all the claims.

What does Santos say?

Let's look at Santos' website. Remember, the whole GLNG project is about extracting coal seam gas and converting it to liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export.

Now, before you dig too deeply into the website, there's a "Disclaimer" at the GLNG Water Portal Water Monitoring map. Here's the final sentence.

"Users should not rely upon the information contained on the website and are encouraged to make their own enquiries."

Curious words indeed. Does this mean that if a person wants more information about, say, chemical testing (more on that later), then does that mean that this person needs to do that himself/herself?

Before accessing the water monitoring portal, the disclaimer has to be agreed to. In other words, Santos does not want to be held to account for any information it places in this portal. 

Don't forget, if you agree, they will have your IP address as proof.

I "agreed" just to see what was happening. After all, I live in South Australia, and that's what a few of us do down here. We dig around for the truth.

Now, examine the interactive map for an understanding of the extent of the Gladstone LNG (GLNG) project. Switch the layers off and on to see the extent of leases, wells, monitoring sites, and other locations. 

Now compare that map with the water monitoring map.

Putting groundwater monitoring data to the test

Is Mr Knox accurate in what he is reported to have said? Let's see.

I selected several random "Groundwater Quality Monitoring" sites - RGWM5 and RGWG29.


I clicked on "See Monitoring Results" which then opened up a table of results called "Sample Location Reports".

The results only revealed four parameters - water level, pH, Electrical Conductivity (EC), Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). The commencement date was May 2011.


The results only revealed three parameters - pH, Electrical Conductivity (EC), Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). The commencement date was May 2011.

Now, just so that you know what I'm talking about, in my professional background I've been involved in a number of waste management and wastewater management projects that required groundwater assessments.

Testing for just four or three parameters is most inadequate. 

CSG extractions use many chemicals in the process, so I would have thought that chemical parametric monitoring should be a necessary requirement. 


This is another randon site I chose in order to test the commencement date of monitoring.

The result - October 2009.

But this site has only been tested once (1 October 2009), and only for pH, Electrical Conductivity (EC), Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).

Putting surface water monitoring data to the test

For this random test I selected site RS11 on the Blyth Creek.

Again, only pH, Electrical Conductivity (EC), Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) were being monitored. The commencement date was 1 May 2011.

This is not adequate, as there is no monitoring of chemicals in the water body.

Recall the bubbling of methane in rivers and watercourses on the GAS LEAK! program

Why wouldn't monitoring be conducted for fugitive methane in watercourses?

Indeed, why should methane be bubbling out of rivers anyway?

Conclusion (for now)

Is Mr Knox telling the truth? 

Yes, he is, but selectively. It is apparent that the water monitoring project is reasonably extensive. 

But it is also very deficient. 

Chemical testing is absent. More information on chemical testing can be found at Coal Seam Gas News and other online sources.

In addition, commencing monitoring just several years ago is too short a time frame to make sense of what's going on. Maybe other monitoring sites have earlier results, but the random sites I chose have only been monitored for several years, some for less than two years. Maybe the Santos "Disclaimer" absolves them from responsibility.

Is Simone Marsh telling the truth? 

Yes, she is. Because what she was seeking was BASELINE DATA!

This is absolutely necessary if any sense is to be made of monitoring results. Comparisons and changes over time have to be made.

Furthermore, chemical testing is apparently not being done. 

It is not good enough, and little wonder that there's a rising tide of discontent from people who live in these so-called "gas-rich basins".


The GLNG project is a high stakes project. The Queensland government depends on it for income. The Australian government depends on it, and on other similar large-scale developments, for income. These governments not only depend on the income, they encourage it.

There will always be casualties along the way when the corporation, governments, and profiteers get together. The casualties are innocent people, and the environment.

The next in this series of posts on CSG will be about what's contained in the two Santos reports that are in the public domain at the Santos website.

Have your say. What did you discover on the Santos website and the water portal?

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