Asbestos scare halts coal seam gas drilling at Queensland sites

COAL SEAM GAS 00058349 AFR PHOTOGRAPH BY GLENN HUNT 13 NOVEMBER 2006.  .   AFR FIRST USE ONLY SPECIALX 00058349Farmers and environmentalists have deep reservations about the impact of coal seam gas “fracking” on the landscape and water. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Origin Energy, in charge of coal seam gas drilling for the Australia Pacific liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, said on Thursday it had stopped work at 12 sites in Queensland as asbestos had been found in drilling fluids it was using.

Origin said the supplier of some of its drilling fluids, Australian Mud Company (AMC), owned by Imdex Ltd, had found that its imported walnut-shell based product NUTPLUG contained asbestos.

The asbestos scare is likely to add to concerns over coal seam gas drilling.

Farmers and environmentalists already fear that “fracking”, a drilling technique that uses high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to extract gas trapped in rock, could contaminate water supplies.

Origin said it was providing support to anyone who may have been exposed to the drilling fluids.

A company spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on whether any workers or landowners around the drilling sites had been affected or what impact the drilling problem might have on the Asia-Pacific LNG project, which is due to start exporting in mid-2015.

AMC is withdrawing its NUTPLUG product from the market and investigating where it came from, Origin said.

AMC officials were not immediately available for comment.

Origin is a 37.5 per cent owner of the Australia Pacific LNG project, alongside ConocoPhillips with 37.5 per cent and China’s Sinopec with 25 per cent.

Origin stock slipped 0.6 per cent to $14.48, while Imdex’s shares fell 1.5 per cent to $0.67 in a broader market that was up 0.7 per cent.


Posted on: March 14, 2014