Natural gas in Australia is still a relatively abundant resource and produces energy for Australians in a cheaper and less intensive way than coal.
Like coal, it’s a fossil fuel created over millions of years through the natural compression of organic compounds. While coal is solid, natural gas is the gaseous remains of ancient plant and animal matter, consisting mainly of methane. Pockets of this fuel can be located and retrieved deep below the surface of the earth, giving us a readily available source of power that currently makes up more than a fifth of the world’s energy consumption.
Because of the time required for nature to create natural gas, it is a finite and non-renewable source of energy, but it still has advantages over coal and oil. Importantly – gas generators produce less carbon dioxide and therefore have a smaller impact on climate change. It’s also relatively inexpensive to source, contain and deliver to the consumer.
Coal seam gas (CSG) is a term that most of us have become only recently familiar with. This kind of gas differs from natural gas in the way that it formed and deposited in the earth. Because it forms directly adjacent to coal deposits, it must be separated and removed in a very particular way.
Queensland is the largest Australian consumer of coal seam gas, comprising nearly three quarters of the state’s gas consumption, but as a nation, our use is still much lower than that of natural gas. Despite concerns over the safety of the extraction process and the possibility of ground contamination, CSG continues to gain traction in the energy market and, unless legislative limitations are implemented, we can expect it will form an even higher proportion of Australia’s energy consumption in years to come.
Coal Seam Gas is relatively inexpensive, and during its production, creates water as a by-product. CSG is currently one of the cleanest fossil fuels; however, the production of the gas isn’t without its flaws, as carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.
While CSG is relatively inexpensive, it’s not a sustainable product long-term as it relies on the discovery of coal to maintain production. Not only that, but the water by-product is not fit for human consumption, and in some parts of the world, has undergone scrutiny and criticism for the potential toxicity of the water.