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Bowen Basin carbon emissions 'like 30 million cars', report claims

Business

Queensland’s Bowen Basin was producing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a small European country, according to a report from a data analytics firm.

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And it said that if techniques were used to drain the methane from the mine before development, emissions would be reduced dramatically.

The report, by Kayrros SAS, was compiled with the use of satellite observations from the European Space Agency.

It found that for every ton of coal (0.9 tonne) produced in the Bowen Basin, an average of 7.5kg of greenhouse gas was released.

“That’s 47 per cent higher than the average global methane intensity estimated by the International Energy Agency,’’ Karryos said.

It said the basin emitted an average of 1.6 million tons per year (1.45mt) of methane in 2019 and 2020— “equivalent to the carbon footprint of a mid-sized European country or to the CO2 emissions of about 30 million passenger vehicles over the same timeframe’’. 

It said measurements showed that the observed methane intensity varied significantly across the basin and the average intensity of the top quartile of mines was five times higher than for the bottom quartile.

“Reducing methane emissions from coal is even more straightforward than from oil and gas,’’ the Karryos report said. 

“Draining methane from coal seams before the coal is exposed, or capturing methane from the mine ventilation systems, are well-established techniques.

“If these techniques were deployed across the entire Bowen Basin, methane emissions would decline by 650,000 tons a year. 

“Ascertaining the full extent of the methane emissions from Australia’s coal mines for the first time is a critical milestone in the race to reduce our climate footprint,” said Kayrros President Antoine Rostand. 

“Coal gets lost in the discussion of our methane footprint, partly due to the wish to move away from it altogether, partly due to a lack of data. 

“But coal is still a big part of the fuel mix and our measurements show reducing methane emissions from coal is a proverbial low-hanging fruit for the climate.” 

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate and energy campaigner Jason Lyddieth said that according to government data, methane was 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a big contributor to our climate problem.

“The technology to deal with this problem in the Bowen Basin is available and ready to go,” he said.

“Companies will not curb pollution out of the goodness of their hearts.

“Unless governments effectively regulate climate pollution, companies will continue to vent methane into the atmosphere—this is methane we cannot get back and it is heating our planet, contributing to longer droughts, water shortages and reef bleaching.

“Climate change is an urgent problem. This is an example of completely unnecessary and preventable carbon pollution that could be cut immediately using existing technology.

“Cracking down on fugitive methane emissions must be part of the Queensland Government’s promised climate action plan.”

The Queensland Resources Council has been approached for comment.

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