Welcome to GasFields Commission Queensland

Managing and improving the sustainable coexistence of landholders, regional communities and Queensland’s onshore gas industry.

Who we are

GasFields Commission Queensland is an independent statutory body who facilitates trustworthy relationships and respectful communication between Queensland’s onshore gas, agriculture, business and government sectors. The GasFields Commission’s vision is to achieve thriving communities in areas of gas development that are free from discord and supported by well-informed, respectful and balanced stakeholder relationships.
The GasFields Commission supports best-practice business-to-business relationships across Queensland’s gas fields and provides the tools for informed decision-making for all stakeholders.

 

Information for

There are more than two million land titles in Queensland. Across those titles (during FY20), more than 4,500 Conduct and Compensation Agreements are held.

These Conduct and Compensation Agreements are held by approximately 1,472 landholders. With agriculture occupying more than 80% of Queensland’s 173 million hectares of land area, greater interaction between rural landholders and the onshore gas industry is inevitable. The GasFields Commission’s Gas Guide aims to clearly define landholders’ rights and obligations when dealing with resource companies operating on, or near their land.

A key function of the GasFields Commission is to help rural landholders and regional communities adapt to gas field developments – so if you can’t find what you’re looking for, or you have a question for the GFCQ team, send us a private message via our ‘Live Chat’ Message App!

Important resources

THE GAS GUIDE & ROADMAP

The Gas Guide is the most comprehensive guide to gas development available to Queensland landholders, bringing together all the information landholders need to know about gas development. Packed with helpful resources, the Gas Guide is designed to give landholders all the information they need to negotiate a fair and reasonable outcome should a resource company request to operate on their land.

There are 77 local council areas in Queensland. Local councils play an important role in community governance. As a forum for local decision-making, they help deliver the Queensland Government’s priorities locally and regionally.

One of the key functions of the GasFields Commission is to help regional communities adapt to gas field developments. We have regionally-based stakeholder engagement officers to support local communities find the best way to benefit from future investments and improve the lives of everyone involved.

2 November 2022

Community drop-in sessions

Come along to our free community drop-in sessions. These sessions are a great opportunity to learn more about gas developments, regulatory frameworks and general information.
7 October 2022

Have your say on Surat and Bowen Basin stakeholder engagement

The GasFields Commission Queensland is inviting landholders, community members and other stakeholders from the Surat and Bowen Basins to help shape the format of its ongoing stakeholder engagement.

FAQs

Types of impacts

The construction and installation of onshore gas industry infrastructure may cause localised environmental disturbance, including soil degradation, contamination and the introduction of invasive species due to the project area footprint and the heavy machinery involved. Impacts can materialise in various forms, including but not limited to:

  • Ground disturbances – may include the location of gas wells, well pads, pipelines, access roads and laydown yards (see Gas Guide – Chapter 7)
  • Business impacts – e.g. changes in yield resulting from construction, operation, decommissioning and rehabilitation of gas activities (see Gas Guide – Chapter 5)
  • Groundwater impacts – the removal of groundwater during the gas extraction process may lead to water bores, located in the same aquifer, being impacted (see Gas Guide – Chapter 6)
  • Noise, light, dust and odour impacts – these may arise during construction and operation of gas infrastructure and are managed via the resource companies Environmental Authority (EA), issued by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) (see Gas Guide – Chapter 7).
GasFields Commission Queensland's Gas Guide and Gas Development Activity Roadmap

The GasFields Commission’s Gas Guide and Roadmap have been specifically collated to deliver landholders a clear and easy to understand guide of what to expect during each stage of engagement with petroleum and gas developments, on private land, in Queensland – including detailed information around the management of possible impacts.

  Download the Gas Guide and Roadmap for more information.

Minimising the impacts of a resource company’s activities on your property is a realistic but challenging goal. Queensland’s Land Access Code, made under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, provides advice on best practice communication, consultation and negotiation.

Protection of agricultural land

In Queensland, agricultural land is protected by environmental and regional planning legislation. These protections do not aim to prevent resource development. They do however seek to manage the impact of resource activities and other regulated activities on areas of regional interest; and support coexistence of resource activities with other activities, including highly productive agricultural activities.

The purpose of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (RPI Act) is to identify areas of Queensland that are of regional interest because they contribute, or are likely to contribute, to Queensland’s economic, social and environmental prosperity. The RPI Act also manages the impacts of resources activities in areas of regional interest to maximise the opportunity for coexistence.

To achieve its purposes, the RPI Act provides for a transparent and accountable process for the impact of proposed resource activities and regulated activities on areas of regional interest to be assessed and managed.

The RPI Act manages impacts of resource activities in the following areas:

  • Priority agricultural areas (PAAs)
  • Priority living areas (PLAs)
  • Strategic cropping areas (SCAs)
  • Strategic environmental areas (SEAs).

The purpose of identifying PAAs, PLAs and SCAs is to ensure that resource activities in these areas do not hinder agricultural operations. They must not result in a material impact on a priority agricultural land use. The assessment criteria in the Regional Planning Interests Regulation 2014 provide prescribed solutions for managing impact.

If a resource company wishes to operate in areas defined under the RPI Act, it must factor in the priority land use interests when negotiating a Conduct and Compensation Agreement (CCA) with a landholder. Any new resource development seeking to operate in a PAA will need to meet assessment criteria ensuring no material loss of land, no threat to continued agricultural use and no material impact on declared regionally significant irrigation aquifers or overland flow.

Several guidelines have been developed to provide more information about the RPI Act. You can access these guidelines and associated maps by visiting the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning website: www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au.

GasFields Commission Queensland have delivered seven recommendations to the State Government as part of its “Review of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 Assessment Process Report”.

Environmental Authority

In Queensland, resource companies need to apply for an EA before undertaking an environmentally relevant activity (ERA). ERAs are industrial, resource or intensive agricultural activities with the potential to release contaminants into the environment. They include a wide range of activities such as aquaculture, sewage treatment, cattle feedlotting, mining and resource activities such as petroleum (which includes coal seam gas), geothermal and greenhouse gas storage activities.

The purpose of an EA is to protect sensitive receptors such as houses, ecosystems and areas of environmental value from resource activity. The EA is issued by DES and provides conditions to minimise the effects environmental nuisance and establishes limits on activities that could cause environmental harm.

Where a resource activity will result in significantly disturbed land, DES may require an EA holder to pay financial assurance (FA). FA is a type of financial security provided to the Queensland Government to cover any costs or expenses incurred in taking action to prevent or minimise environmental harm or rehabilitate or restore the environment, should the EA holder fail to meet their environmental obligations.

Subject to successful rehabilitation and the EA holder meeting their closure conditions, FA is returned at the end of the project. For further information on FA, including when FA may be required and how it is calculated, refer to the Business Queensland website: www.business.qld.gov.au.

Soil impacts

The footprint of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) development on agricultural lands and the environment is acknowledged as much greater than the proportionally small area devoted to the well head infrastructure, or even surrounding lease areas during development. The extent and nature of damage to the soil resource caused by the various elements involved in the development of the CSG industry is not currently well documented.

Numerous academic studies have been undertaken on the impact to agricultural soil as a result of the development and operation of the CSG industry. To date the studies have centred around assessing the extent of damage to agricultural soil caused by the various elements of CSG development.

One such study undertaken in 2014 – ‘Quantifying the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) activities on the soil resource of agricultural lands in Queensland, Australia‘ – focused on the impacts on soil in the Surat and Bowen basins. The paper examined the importance of quantifying the different impacts that CSG activities have on soils in order to better inform the development of gas industry guidelines to minimise impacts to the soil resource on joint CSG–agricultural lands.

Another study, undertaken by the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) – ‘The effects of coal seam gas infrastructure development on arable land. Project 5: Without a trace (Final report)‘ – undertook a study of farms in the Surat Basin. This research drew from an evidence-based understanding of regional processes and issues relating to five key topics:

  1. Surface and groundwater;
  2. Biodiversity;
  3. Agricultural land management;
  4. Marine environment; and
  5. Socio-economic impacts.

The work reported in GISERA’s study was conducted under the agricultural land management theme to extend the knowledge-base of environmental impacts and management associated with development of CSG infrastructure, and to assist the industry meeting the expectations of stakeholders and the wider farming community.

This study also works to inform land managers and the CSG industry on ways to improve current operations and protect the soil resource. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to:

  1. Assess the damage to agricultural soils associated with development of CSG infrastructure
  2. Model the likely impact of soil compaction on crop productivity
  3. Acquire a background dataset, which may be used to advise policy makers and the CSG industry on measures relating to improved soil management practices within highly-productive arable land in Queensland.
Weed management

All Queenslanders have a ‘general biosecurity obligation’ under the Biosecurity Act 2014. Regardless of resource activity in your local area, landholders should have a biosecurity management plan, which would include an on-farm biosecurity plan to protect their day-to-day business operations from threats posed by invasive weeds – this should be in addition to the tenure holder’s biosecurity plan.

  Download the GFCQ Biosecurity Checklist: A guideline for landholders and resource companies.

The Biosecurity Act 2014 ensures a consistent, modern, risk-based and less prescriptive approach to biosecurity in Queensland. The Act provides comprehensive biosecurity measures to safeguard our economy, agricultural and tourism industries, environment and way of life, from:

  • pests (e.g. wild dogs and weeds)
  • diseases (e.g. foot-and-mouth disease)
  • contaminants (e.g. lead on grazing land).

The Act replaced the many separate pieces of legislation that were previously used to manage biosecurity. Decisions made under the Act will depend on the likelihood and consequences of the risk. This means risks can be managed more appropriately. Under the Act, the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 sets out how the Act is implemented and applied.

Landholders can help prevent weed spread by regularly cleaning vehicles and equipment, ensuring weed hygiene declarations accompany seed stock and fodder, adopting quarantine procedures before introducing new livestock and maintaining pastures in good conditions. They can benchmark their weed status and establish risk management practices, ideally prior to any significant gas activity on their property.

A good reference for landholders wanting more information on managing weed spread is a white paper presented at the Nineteenth Australasian Weeds Conference, titled ‘Agriculture, big business and the gas fields: practical tools for weed hygiene at the mega-scale‘. This white paper discusses weed prevention measures/strategies developed by the onshore gas industry as part of standard operating procedures.

The measures include landholders’ practices; legislation; and weed hygiene procedures adopted by the onshore gas industry. The strategies help to find collaborative weed management solutions with other industry partners and to guide biosecurity management planning, hygiene management planning and practices and land access agreement negotiations.

The Land Access Code, made under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, imposes mandatory conditions concerning the conduct of authorised activities, including petroleum authorities, on private land. One of the mandatory conditions (section 15 of the Code) is to prevent the spread of a declared pest while carrying out authorized activities. A declared pest is defined under the Biosecurity Act 2014 and can also be an animal or plant declared under a local law to be a pest.

Visit the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Farm Biosecurity Program website (www.farmbiosecurity.com.au) for detailed information on how to identify and understand biosecurity risks, minimise the spread of pests, weeds and diseases and what landholders can do to assist meeting their ‘general biosecurity obligation’.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Farm Biosecurity Program Farm Check-In App

Part of the Farm Biosecurity Program’s suite of tools for landholders to control biosecurity risks is the Farm Check-In app – a tool used for visitors to help identify potential biosecurity risks and minimise the spread of pests and diseases when entering an agricultural property.

GFCQ Interactive Gas Map iconTo investigate current gas development activities, visit the GFCQ Interactive Gas Map which gives you access to view and download geospatial data/information relating to Queensland’s onshore gas industry activities in your local area.

What is hydraulic fracturing (‘fraccing’/‘fracking’)?

Hydraulic fracturing, also commonly referred to as ‘fraccing’ or ‘fracking’, is a method used to stimulate gas production from geological formations with a low permeability. Typically only a small fraction of wells drilled in Queensland are hydraulically fractured, as this process adds considerable expense to the cost of gas production. It is only undertaken when absolutely necessary based on challenging geological conditions.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting fluid made up of water, sand and chemical additives into a target gas formation to fracture the rock to release the oil and gas. Hydraulic fracturing is primarily used in the production of shale gas and tight gas. However, it is also used in the production of CSG from deeper, lower permeability coal seams.

How are hydraulic fracturing activities regulated?

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has established model conditions for an Environment Authority that specify the management requirements for hydraulic fracturing activities in coal seam gas wells – the Streamlined model conditions for petroleum activities—ESR/2016/1989 (streamlined conditions).

Assisting DES in improving decision making time frames, the streamlined conditions are outcomes-focused and provide for transparency and consistency across the petroleum and gas industry.

What chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing?

Water (84 – 96%) proppant (3 – 15%), such as sand, make up around 99% of the hydraulic fracturing fluid. Added chemicals make up about 1% of the hydraulic fracturing fluid – these chemical additives are used to reduce friction, inhibit bacteria growth, dissolve minerals and enhance the hydraulic fracturing fluid’s ability to transport sand into fractures.

Some commonly used chemical additives, and their uses in hydraulic fracturing fluids, include:

  • guar gum (a food thickening agent) is used to create a gel that transports sand through the fracture;
  • bactericides, such as sodium hypochlorite (pool chlorine) and sodium hydroxide (used to make soap), are used to prevent bacterial growth that contaminates gas and restricts gas flow;
  • ‘breakers’, such as ammonium persulfate (used in hair bleach), that dissolve hydraulic fracturing gels so that they can transmit water and gas;
  • surfactants, such as ethanol and the cleaning product orange oil, are used to increase fluid recovery from the fracture; and
  • acids and alkalis, such as acetic acid (vinegar) and sodium carbonate (washing soda) to control the acid balance of the hydraulic fracturing fluid.

A comprehensive list of the most commonly used additives in hydraulic fracturing fluid can be found in Appendix A of the GasFields Commission’s ‘Shared Landscapes – Industry Trends’ Report.

NOTE: In Australia, it is mandatory for resource companies to release a full list of the chemical compounds used during drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. Resource companies in Queensland are, under the State’s existing regulatory frameworks, required to disclose a full list of additives prior to any hydraulic fracturing activities commencing.

How are hydraulic fracturing chemicals regulated?
  1. The Environmental Protection Act 1994 was amended in October 2010 to regulate the use of benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylenes (BTEX) chemicals in hydraulic fracturing processes.  As BTEX chemicals occur naturally in underground water sources, the government has restricted the use of BTEX in hydraulic fracturing processes to maintain nationally set environmental and human health standards.The amendments to the Act also improved notice requirements of incidents that may cause serious or material environmental harm to affected landholders. Affected landholders must also be notified of incidents that may cause serious or material environmental harm.The use of BTEX chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids in Queensland is strictly prohibited under section 206 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
  2. The Petroleum and Gas (Safety) Regulation 2018 and Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 stipulate a resource companies are required to notify the government and landholders when carrying out hydraulic fracturing activities at least 10 business days before commencement, and when completing hydraulic fracturing by submitting a notice of completion within 10 days of completion.Companies must lodge a report with the Queensland Government, within two months of any hydraulic fracturing activity, detailing the composition of the fracturing fluid used at each well and its potential impact. These detailed completion reports are made available to the public after five years.

For more information on hydraulic fracturing techniques, including reporting requirements and governance arrangements, visit the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website: www.awe.gov.au.

For more general information on hydraulic fracturing, visit CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) website: https://gisera.csiro.au.

What is CSG produced water?

The groundwater that is removed from coal seams in order to produce CSG is known by several different names, including CSG produced water, co-produced water, associated water and CSG water (for consistency the Commission will be using the term ‘CSG produced water’ throughout this site). This water can be treated and used beneficially for a range of purposes.

The Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 defines ‘produced water’ as “CSG water; or associated water for a petroleum tenure. In the act, reference to produced water includes – treated and untreated CSG water, and concentrated saline water produced during the treatment of CSG water”.

CSG produced water contains natural salts and other minerals in varying quantities. Some of the groundwater extracted to produce CSG in Queensland is treated to ensure that it meets the quality standards and environmental guidelines for its intended reuse purpose.

In Queensland, CSG produced water is used for crop irrigation, livestock watering, industrial manufacturing, dust suppression and for the construction of onsite gas field infrastructure. CSG produced water is also reinjected into groundwater aquifers for future use. The treatment and reuse of CSG produced water is strictly regulated.

In Queensland, resource companies have the right to take ‘associated water’ (CSG produced water) under Part 4 of the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 and Part 6D, Division 5, Subdivision 2 of the Petroleum Act 1923 – as water is a by-product in the process of extracting gas.

In addition, resource companies have an obligation to comply with the underground water management framework under Chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000.

For more information on the types, uses and regulation of CSG produced water in Queensland, visit the Department of Environment and Science website: www.environment.des.qld.gov.au.

Regulation
  1. The Waste Reduction Recycling Act 2011 recognises that CSG produced water, which is a ‘waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, may have beneficial uses. This Act prescribes the process whereby CSG produced water can be reclassified as a resource and used for a beneficial purpose.
  2. The Environmental Protection Act 1994 imposes requirements on the management of CSG produced water, including its use, treatment, storage and disposal.
  3. The Coal Seam Gas Water Management Policy 2012 encourages resource companies to manage CSG produced water in a way that benefits regional communities and reduces impacts on the environment.

Until recently, the beneficial use of CSG produced water needed to be approved by the Queensland Government under a ‘Beneficial Use Approval’. While some of these approvals are still in effect until they expire, recent legislative changes have introduced ‘End of Waste’ approvals and codes that allow for CSG produced water to be used for beneficial purposes.

The main drive for this change was to reduce the regulatory burden on a by-product (e.g. CSG produced water) that fits the criteria to be deemed a ‘resource’ instead of a ‘waste’. For CSG produced water to be deemed a resource, trials must be conducted to demonstrate it meets a set of requirements. If the CSG produced water meets these requirements and is deemed a resource, further regulatory approvals for its use would not be required.

For more information on the End of waste (EOW) framework, visit the Department of Environment and Science website: www.environment.des.qld.gov.au.

Case Study

The Chinchilla Beneficial Use Scheme is an example of CSG water being put to a beneficial use. It is a contractual arrangement between Queensland Gas Company (QGC) and SunWater, a bulk water infrastructure developer and manager.

QGC treats CSG produced water from its gas fields in the Surat Basin at its Kenya Water Treatment Plant south west of Chinchilla. The Kenya WTP treats and recovers approximately 90% of the raw CSG produced water and transports it by pipeline directly to landholders and to the Chinchilla Weir on the Condamine River, where it is mixed with river water and supplements water reserves available for agricultural use and public consumption.

Source: GasFields Commission Queensland (QGC Kenya Water Treatment Plant [2021])

Various dispute resolution options are available if negotiations with resource companies become challenging or stall completely. The GasFields Commission’s recommendation, which is supported by experts in negotiation and issue resolution, is to keep the lines of communication open.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own, the resource company can issue a notice of intent to negotiate (NIN) which allows them to proceed through the statutory negotiation processes available.

Slight differences, such as time frames and requirements, exist between the process for negotiating Conduct and Compensation Agreements (CCAs) compared to Make Good Agreements (MGAs).

However the general resolution options available for the two types of agreements are similar as outlined in the diagrams below.

CCA and MGA Negotiation Framework Fact Sheets

Either party can seek to enter into a dispute resolution process by providing written notice to the other. Some of the dispute resolution options available in Queensland include:

  • Conference – An authorised officer from the Department of Resources (Resources) facilitates discussions between the parties with the aim of reaching agreement usually within 20 business days for CCAs or 30 business days for MGAs. This is a low-cost, nonbinding option.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
    • Facilitative Mediation – an independent person facilitates a discussion between the parties. The mediator is impartial and does not advise or make any decisions.
    • Evaluative Mediation – a process which may include an assessment by the mediator of the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ cases and a prediction of the likely outcome of the case.
    • Conciliation – an independent person who is an expert on the subject provides advice on the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the dispute. While the conciliator provides advice, they do not make any decisions.
    • Case Appraisal – an independent person who is an expert receives evidence from each party. The case appraiser assesses the merits of each case and makes a non-binding decision in writing.
  • Arbitration – involves an independent and suitably qualified third party acting as a judge. Both parties must agree to the choice of the arbitrator.
  • Land Court of Queensland hearing – These are public hearings and the decision of the Land Court is binding. An application can also be made to the Land Court to decide a dispute in relation to a MGA if a conference or an ADR was held and either not concluded or failed to reach agreement.

The information shared during any of these ADR processes is maintained as confidential. ADRs are initiated by completing a form known as an Election Notice – click to download a copy of the ADR Election Notice.

For dispute resolution regarding potential breaches after “agreements are in place”, either party can contact the Land Access Ombudsman.

Important IconIt is important to note the GasFields Commission does not ENGAGE in individual negotiations between landholders and resource companies, nor does it INVESTIGATE complaints made against individual resource companies.

Landholders wishing to lodge complaints about resource exploration or development activities should contact the Department of Resources’ Resource Community Infoline:

GasFields Commission Queensland's Gas Guide and Gas Development Activity Roadmap

The GasFields Commission’s Gas Guide and Roadmap have been specifically collated to deliver landholders a clear and easy to understand guide of what to expect during each stage of engagement with petroleum and gas developments, on private land, in Queensland – including detailed information around what dispute resolution options are available if negotiations with resource companies become challenging or stall completely (see Chapter 10 – Dispute Resolution). Download the Gas Guide and Roadmap for more information.

As a landholder, you may be entitled to compensation as part of a Conduct and Compensation Agreement (CCA) to mitigate the impacts resulting from authorised petroleum and gas development activities on or under your property.

Queensland legislation provides the basis for determining any compensation entitlement and the amount is dependent on the impact the proposed resource company activities will have on your property and/or lifestyle.

Compensation is generally based on the following factors:

  • The value of the land encumbered by the petroleum tenement;
  • The intensity of the proposed works on the property;
  • Loss in value due to construction and operation of the gas field on the property which is determined by market evidence;
  • Proximity of the residence to gas field infrastructure; and
  • Compensation entitlements vary depending on whether you are the owner or an occupier of the property.

Compensation can also include professional costs reasonably incurred by you in negotiating a CCA such as valuation, accounting, taxation, agronomist or legal fees. Resource companies each have individual approaches to determining compensation amounts. The term of activity on a property will affect the compensation amount payable.

The Commission’s flagship publication, the Gas Guide, catalogues pertinent information that landholders need to know about the various stages of petroleum and gas development in Queensland – including all the information landholders need to negotiate a fair and reasonable outcome should a resource company request to operate on your land.

  Download the Gas Guide for more information (see Chapter 5 – Land Access Agreements).

For more information on ‘rights to compensation for a landholder if they have CSG activites on or under their land’,
visit the Commission’s Understanding Compensation webpage.

For more information on ‘Your entitlements to compensation’, visit the Business Queensland website: www.business.qld.gov.au.        

For more information on compensation download the Department of Resources ‘A guide to landholder compensation for mining claims and mining leases’.

For more information on Conduct and Compensation Agreements download the Department of Resources ‘A guide to land access in Queensland’

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