Extracting the facts on Australian attitudes to mining

Mine with dump truck

A dump truck drives through an open cut mine. Image by CSIRO Publishing

It’s no secret that mining is important to Australia, but that doesn’t necessarily make it popular with society at large.

We wanted to have a better understanding of what Australians think about mining, so in 2013/14 we conducted an online survey of 5,121 Australians.

The survey results have now been published as Australian attitudes toward mining: Citizen Survey – 2014 Results

Surveying community attitudes helps us to understand the impacts and benefits of mining, and how the relationship between the mining industry, government and society affects what Australia’s citizens think about it, and how much they accept the mining industry. It gives us insight into what needs to happen before mining has a ‘social licence to operate’ in Australia.

Importance of mining to Australia

Is mining important to Australia?

We’ve gone beyond basic descriptions of attitudes towards the extractive industries, and looked at the relationship between mining and society in a more constructive and sophisticated way.

We wanted to know what goes into influencing trust in the mining industries, and the government, over mining developments. What, for example, is the relationship between good governance and social acceptance of the extractive industries? What are the key issues for a productive dialogue between the extractive industries and other stakeholders?

Acceptance of mining

How much do Australian accept the mining industries?

Some of the important findings from the survey are that:

  • People view mining as central and significant to Australia’s economy and standard of living. They see it as a ‘necessary’ industry for Australia, which is important to Australia’s future prosperity
  • Australians generally understand what it means to have a significant mining industry. Overall, they think that at present the benefits of mining outweigh its impacts.
  • The more the benefits of mining outweigh the costs, the higher the level of acceptance. If this balance is perceived to move toward the negative impacts of mining, acceptance of mining will be eroded.
  • Australians trust and accept the industry more when they believe the industry is listening to them and will respond to their concerns, when benefits from mining are shared equitably, and when the legislative and regulatory frameworks in place make them confident that industry will do the right thing.
  • Governments and industry need to work with communities to earn and maintain the ‘social licence to operate’ and develop effective, constructive, mutually beneficial relationships.

Global carbon report: emissions will hit new heights in 2014

By Pep Canadell, CSIRO and Michael Raupach, Australian National University

As heads of state gather in New York for tomorrow’s United Nations climate summit, a new report on the state of the world’s carbon budget tells them that greenhouse emissions hit a new record last year, and are still growing.

The Global Carbon Project has released its annual report card on the global and national trends in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

It shows that global emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production reached a new record of 36 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2013, and are predicted to grow by a further 2.5% in 2014, bringing the total CO2 emissions from all sources to more than 40 billion tonnes. This is about 65% more fossil-fuel emission than in 1990, when international negotiations to reduce emissions to address climate change began.

Meanwhile, deforestation now accounts for just 8% of total emissions, a fraction that has been declining for several decades.

Global emissions chart

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel and cement production.
Source: CDIAC, Friedlingstein et al. 2014, Global Carbon Project 2014

The growth of global emissions since 2009 has been slower than in the prior period of 2000-08. However, projections based on forecast growth in global gross domestic product (GDP) and continuance of improving trends in carbon intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) suggest a continuation of rapid emissions growth over the coming five years.

Global emissions continue to track the most carbon-intensive range among more than a thousand scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If continued, this situation would lead to global average temperatures between 3.2C and 5.4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Graph of possible IPCC scenarios

Global carbon dioxide emissions from human activity, compared to four different possible futures as depicted in IPCC scenarios.
Fuss et al. 2014

There have been other striking changes in emissions profiles since climate negotiations began. In 1990, about two-thirds of CO2 emissions came from developed countries including the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union (EU) nations. Today, only one-third of world emissions are from these countries; the rest come from the emerging economies and less-developed countries that account for 80% of the global population, suggesting a large potential further emissions growth.

Continuation of current trends over the next five years alone will lead to a new world order on greenhouse gas emissions, with China emitting as much as the United States, Europe and India together.

Country emission profiles

There are several ways to explore countries’ respective contributions to climate change. These include current emissions, per capita emissions, and cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution.

Cumulative emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and cement production for five regions. Cumulative emissions, production emissions (emissions generated in the region where goods and services are produced), consumption emissions (emissions generated in the region where goods and services are consumed), population, and GDP. 2012 is the most recent year for which all data are available.
CDIAC, Global Carbon Project 2014

The largest emitters in 2013 were China, the United States, the 28 EU countries (considered as a single bloc), and India. Together, they account for 58% of global emissions and 80% of the emissions growth in 2013 (with the majority the growth coming from China, whereas the EU cut its emissions overall).

Here’s how the major emitters fared in 2013.

China

Emissions grew at 4.2%, the lowest level since the 2008 global financial crisis, because of weaker economic growth and improvements in the carbon intensity of the economy. Per capita emissions in China (7.2 tonnes of CO2 per person) overtook those in Europe (6.8 tonnes per person).

A large part of China’s high per capita emissions is due to industries that provide services and products to the developed world, not for China’s domestic use. China’s cumulative emissions are still only 11% of the total since pre-industrial times.

United States

Emissions increased by 2.9% because of a rebound in coal consumption, reversing a declining trend in emissions since 2008. Emissions are projected to remain steady until 2019 in the absence of more stringent climate policies, with improvements in the energy and carbon intensity of the economy being offset by growth in GDP and population. The United States remains the biggest contributor of cumulative emissions with 26% of the total.

European Union

Emissions fell by 1.8% on the back of a weak economy, although reductions in some countries were offset by a return to coal led by Poland, Germany and Finland. However, the long-term decrease in EU emissions does not factor in the emissions linked to imported goods and services. When accounting for these “consumption” emissions, EU emissions have merely stabilised, rather than decreased.

India

Emissions grew by 5.1%, driven by robust economic growth and an increase in the carbon intensity of the economy. Per capita emissions were still well below the global average, at 1.9 tonnes of CO2 per person, although India’s total emissions are projected to overtake those in the EU by 2019 (albeit for a population nearly three times as large). Cumulative emissions account for only 3% of the total.

Australia

Emissions from fossil fuels declined in 2013, largely driven by a 5% decline of emissions in the electricity sector over the previous year (as shown by the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Accounts). Fossil fuel emissions per person remain high at 14.6 tonnes of CO2.

National fossil fuel emissions

National carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
Source: CDIAC, Friedlingstein et al. 2014, Le Quere et al. 2014

Per capita emissions fossil fuels

Per capita carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels for the top emitting nations.
Source: CDIAC, Global Carbon Project 2014

Is it too late to tame the climate?

Our estimates (see here and here) show that, at current emissions levels, average global warming will hit 2C in about 30 years.

Despite this apparently imminent event, economic models can still come up with scenarios in which global warming is kept within 2C by 2100, while both population and per capita wealth continue to grow. Are these models playing tricks on us?

Most models invoke two things that will be crucial to stabilising the climate at safer levels. The first is immediate global action to develop carbon markets, with prices rapidly growing to over US$100 per tonne of CO2.

The second is the deployment of “negative emissions” technologies during the second half of this century, which will be needed to mop up the overshoot of emissions between now and mid-century. This will involve removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in safe places such as saline aquifers.

These technologies are largely unavailable at present. The most likely candidate is the production of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, a combination of existing technologies with high costs and with environmental and socio-economic implications that are untested at the required scales.

There are no easy pathways to climate stabilization, and certainly no magic bullets. It is still open to us to choose whether we halt our CO2 emissions completely this century – as required for a safe, stable climate – or try instead to adapt to significantly greater impacts of climate change.

What we have no choice about is the fact that the longer emissions continue to grow at rates of 2% per year or more, the harder it will be to tame our climate.

The Conversation

Pep Canadell received support from the Australian Climate Change Science Program.

Michael Raupach has previously received funding from the Australian Climate Change Science Program, but does not do so now.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


Five facts you didn’t know about hydraulic fracturing (fraccing)

If you type the word ‘fraccing’ into Google you will immediately see how complex a topic it is.

The process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping fluid underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release trapped gas.

We thought we’d shed some light on the technique with five top facts and a new video which explains what coal seam gas is, how it is extracted and what some of the challenges are.

Top 5 facts about hydraulic fracturing:

Hydraulic fracturing infographic

Five facts about hydraulic fracturing

  1. Hydraulic fracturing typically takes place a few hundred metres below ground for coal seam gas and up to 4000 metres for shale gas
  2. The technique has been around since the 1940s
  3. In Australia it is used in 100% of shale gas developments and 20-40% of coal seam gas wells
  4. Typically 5 to 30 megalitres of water is used when fraccing a shale gaswell (US figures), and 0.5 to 3 megalitresfor coal seam gas wells
  5. The fluid used in fraccing is approximately 99% water & sand, and 1% chemical additives.

To get a better understanding of coal seam gas and hydraulic fracturing visit our website www.csiro.au/unconventionalgas


CO2 capture and storage – reducing carbon emissions from coal

In Australia we generate 75% of our electricity from coal. This creates a lot of CO2 emissions, with increasing concerns about global warming and climate change.

Dr Paul Feron wants to be able to use the coal without releasing carbon dioxide. He leads a multi-disciplinary team developing cost-effective methods to capture and store CO2.

Paul’s team has built and operated capture pilot plants illustrating that the technology can be retrofitted to coal-fired power plants as well as smelters, kilns and steel works.

He is focused on reducing the cost of the capture process, so that the technology can be taken up widely – not just in Australia, but also in developing countries which depend on coal for their energy supply . So that we can meet the world’s need for energy without adding to CO2 emissions. Hear Paul talk about his work.

Next week the National Carbon Capture and Storage conference is happening at Cockle Bay in Sydney from August 31 to September 3 – visit the website for more information.


Powering Australia using mirrors in the outback

Fresh from creating a world record back in June, we’re taking our solar savvy to the bush.

At a time when electricity demand is falling across much of Australia, the opposite has been true for many mining centres in remote areas, where energy usage has been increasing.

Solar Thermal Research Hub

CSIRO’s solar thermal research hub in Newcastle, New South Wales.

These regions enjoy some of the bluest skies in the world, making them ideal for the use of solar thermal technology.

The problem is that at the moment the cost is too high.

Solar-thermal tower technology uses many mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun, concentrating its energy by reflecting light towards a receiver fixed on top of a tower. However conventional heliostats are expensive to install in remote areas due to the large number of components that need to be assembled on site, leading to higher electricity costs.

Electricity peak demand

Infographic explaining peak demand electricity.

Until now.

By changing the way heliostats are manufactured and controlled, our solar scientists are aiming to avoid the high cost of installation and maintenance in remote areas, providing an affordable renewable energy solution for the Aussie outback.

But that’s only part of the story.

We’re also working to improve the other components of the overall parts of the solar thermal system such as receivers, turbines and, perhaps most importantly, storage. Thermal energy can be stored relatively cheaply compared to some other technologies, so there is great potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.

Solar electricity can be transported through the grid from our country’s sunniest areas into cities and suburbs, and by making use of storage this can happen at the times when demand (and prices) are highest. This can have a positive impact on electricity prices by reducing peak demand caused by the use of air-conditioners on hot days.

To find out more about our solar thermal research, check out our website.

This three-year heliostat project is supported through $1 million of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). CSIRO will work in partnership with Diver Consolidated Industries and RioGlass Solar on the project.

Media contact: Eamonn Bermingham, telephone: 08 6436 8627 or email: eamonn.bermingham@csiro.au


Sorry Nanna: Study focuses on draughts those snakes can’t keep out

As much as we love those draught-busting door snakes our nannas knit, it is safe to say they aren’t the most scientific solution when it comes to stopping draughts coming through windows or doors. But in the spirit of keeping wintry draughts out, we are launching Australia’s first study of air leakiness in Australian homes.

Door snake

Door snake, just like nanna used it knit. Flickr/The Bunny Maker

 

The aim is to create a snapshot of the energy efficiency of  newer homes in different Australian cities.  The study will assess 140 homes in capital cities across Australia. Volunteers are being sought to take part in the study which will focus on seals around doors and windows and insulation quality.

Energy efficiency experts will conduct a blower door test to assess the air tightness of the building  and carry out an insulation inspection using thermal imaging of each home to identify hotspots for heat loss/gain.

A blower door test involves attaching a sealed frame containing a fan into one exterior door and closing all other external doors and windows. The fan can raise and lower the air pressure inside the house. This causes air to flow in through all unsealed cracks and openings and the rate of air movement through the house can be measured.

The study, being conducted on behalf of the Department of Industry, will focus on homes less than four years old. Home owners who volunteer to take part will be given a report on their home’s air tightness and insulation quality and a copy of the CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook.

Volunteers are being sought in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Perth and Sydney. Data has already been collected on homes in Melbourne and Canberra. You can register your interest in taking part here.


Coal seam gas emissions lower than US: first Australian study

The methane-detecting four-wheel-drive, measuring emissions around Queensland and NSW coal seam gas wells. Tests were also done upwind of each site to avoid cows or other methane sources skewing the results. CSIRO, CC BY-SA

The methane-detecting four-wheel-drive, measuring emissions around Queensland and NSW coal seam gas wells. Tests were also done upwind of each site to avoid cows or other methane sources skewing the results.

By Damian Barrett and Stuart Day

One of the most common questions Australians ask about coal seam gas is whether the gas wells leak – and if so, how much?

In the first Australian study of its kind, new CSIRO research now gives an indication of how much those “fugitive emissions” might be, and how we can start to reduce them.

Commissioned by the federal Department of the Environment and now published on its website, the pilot study measured emissions around 43 coal seam gas production wells – six in New South Wales and 37 in Queensland – out of the more than 5000 wells currently operating around Australia. The results reveal that:

  • nearly all of the 43 wells tested showed some fugitive emissions;
  • the emissions rates were very low (in most cases less than 3 grams of methane per minute – equivalent to methane emissions from around 30 cows);
  • in many cases, those emissions could be reduced or even stopped entirely; and
  • the average measured levels from the Australian wells were 20 times lower than reported in a study of fugitive emissions from US unconventional gas sites, published last year in the leading international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

In Australia, fugitive emissions from coal mining, oil and gas production account for about 8% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

From the latest report on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, published by the federal Department of the Environment in April this year. Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2013. Click to enlarge

From the latest report on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, published by the federal Department of the Environment in April this year. Click to enlarge

Although those fugitive emissions are estimated and reported under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, there has often been a high degree of uncertainty associated with these estimates in Australia – particularly from coal seam gas production.

That’s why this new research is important, as it offers a first indication of fugitive emissions from coal seam gas under Australian conditions.

Pressure regulator

The report found a particular type of pressure regulator installed at many wells was a common source of methane leakage.

The report’s results

Our new report, Field Measurements of Fugitive Emissions from Equipment and Well Casings in Australian Coal Seam Gas Production Facilities, shows that of the 43 wells studied, three had no detectable leaks.

Of the rest, 37 wells emitted less than 3 grams of methane per minute, and 19 of those showed very low emission of less than 0.5 grams of methane per minute.

However, at a few wells (6 of the 43) much higher emissions rates were detected, with one well registering emissions 15 times higher than the study average. That was found to be mainly due to methane discharging from a vent on a water line.

On closer scrutiny, some of the leaks were due to faulty seals on equipment and pumps, which could be easily fixed, while other emissions were associated with exhaust from gas-fuelled engines used to power water pumps that are not regarded as “fugitive” emissions.

We tested for emissions using a four-wheel-drive fitted with a methane analyser. The car made several passes downwind from the well to measure total emissions emanating from the site.

To ensure that other potential methane sources, such as cattle, were not inadvertently included, similar measurements were made upwind of each test site. We also took a series of measurements at each well to locate sources and measure emission rates.

The methane-detecting 4WD and its equipment

The methane-detecting 4WD and its equipment

Why worry about fugitive emissions?

Fugitive emissions occur when methane escapes from production facilities, wells, pipes, compressors and other equipment associated with coal mining or natural gas extraction. Other human induced methane emissions occur through grazing of domestic stock, agricultural production and from landfills.

In nature, methane is released from geological sources and biological processes occurring in wetlands, swamps, rivers and dams. About 15% of human emissions of methane are derived from fossil fuels.

While burning gas for energy has lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to other fossil fuels like coal, methane has a global warming impact at least 25 times that of carbon dioxide (when measured over a 100 year period).

Even small losses of methane during gas production, processing and distribution have the potential to reduce the relative greenhouse benefit of natural gas as a fuel for electricity production.

Fugitive emissions can be costly for the coal seam gas industry because escaping gas represents a loss of a valuable commodity.

What’s next for CSG emissions research?

These new findings from 43 wells are a good start, but they are clearly only the beginning, given that represents fewer than 1% of Australia’s coal seam gas wells. More measurements are required to representatively sample the remaining 99% of wells before we can make definitive statements about methane fugitive emissions in Australia.

CSIRO scientists, through the Gas Industry Social & Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA), are undertaking further research into methane emissions in Australia including understanding the natural or background emissions of methane that come from seeps in the ground in Queensland’s Surat Basin.

This research aims to identify background sources of methane and determine the best detection and measurement methods.

Results from measuring naturally occurring methane seepage, as well as the results of this new report and others, will add to the bigger picture of assessing the coal seam gas industry’s whole of life cycle greenhouse gas emission footprint. Most importantly, we hope they will provide more answers to Australians’ question about coal seam gas.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article


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