The presence of gas in coals is a long and well-known phenomenon, dating back to unfortunate mining accidents as far back as the early 1800s. By the early 1900s it was common to degas coals prior to mining operations, but it was not until large tax reforms in the 1970s, pushing for the development of unconventional resources in the United States that coal seam gas (CSG) was explored for commercial development.
By the early 1980s, production began from the Black Warrior and San Juan Basins in Alabama and New Mexico respectively. Hosting the world’s 5th largest coal reserves(1) and with a booming mining industry, Australian companies kept a keen eye on the development of these CSG fields across the Pacific Ocean. Drawing parallels between these American Fields and the Bowen Basin of Queensland, a number of exploration projects begun. By 1996, 160 wells were drilled, and production started to serve the growing domestic market of south-east Queensland(2).
From 2000 onward, the push for natural gas as a cleaner source of electricity, in comparison to the dominating coal-fired power plants, accelerated the development of CSG projects. In 2005, the Queensland Government introduced a law requiring 13% of electricity generation to be sourced from gas, rising to 15% by 2011(3). This led to further exploration in the Surat Basin, a younger basin overlying the Bowen Basin, pictured in Figure 1. Today, nearly 99% of all petroleum activity in Queensland is related to CSG projects.