The coal seam gas (CSG) industry in Queensland is booming. Government figures show that record levels of investment were placed in the state's mining and petroleum industries in 2009/2010.
Mines and energy minister Stephen Robertson said that figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show AU$917.1 million (£550 million) was invested in exploration during the 12-month period, an increase of 43 percent on 2008/2009 figures.
Robertson said the increased investment highlighted the continuing attraction of Queensland as a destination for exploration.
"This represents 60 percent of total Australian onshore petroleum expenditure and clearly reflects the intense exploration activity in the search for coal seam gas.
"It's also interesting to note Queensland's mineral exploration expenditure was greater than the combined total AU$402 million invested in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania," he said.
The continued application of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax has also helped ensure that the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry in Australia remains competitive with the rest of the world.
Growth for Pipeline Industry
The impact of this boom will also have a knock-on effect on the pipeline industry in Australia.
Cheryl Cartwright, chief executive of the Australian Pipeline Industry Association, said at the industry's annual conference in Darwin that the construction of high-pressure pipelines for the transportation of CSG and LNG will be a huge driver behind growth in the sector.
Cartwright predicted that in the next ten years it is possible AU$10 billion could be spent on the high-pressure pipeline infrastructure, adding that it is essential the development of the CSG industry is not delayed.
"It is important for Australia that this CSG industry growth is not delayed, and our industry is keen to work with governments—state and federal—to ensure progress of such CSG development," she said.
She added that it is "critical" the country invests in the necessary infrastructure so that natural gas can be used to support renewable energy supplies.
The development of natural gas resources in the country is also likely to help contribute to Australia's carbon reduction targets, Cartwright highlighted. The country is aiming to reduce its emissions by 60 percent on 2000 levels by the year 2050.
Despite the possibility that the development of CSG could contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions in Australia, green groups have expressed concerns about the development of such projects.
Drew Hutton, from Friends of the Earth, called for all CSG projects to be halted in Queensland until further environmental assessments are carried out, ABC reported.
"We're saying call a halt to the whole thing, all of the companies, no further infrastructure until they've got the proper assessments made," he said.
Hutton's concerns centre around the effect of CSG on groundwater supplies.
The Queensland government set up an online system for monitoring groundwater supplies in the Surat and Bowen basins, which measures traditional levels of water and salinity in the region.
Stephen Robertson, minister for natural resources, mines and energy, said that it is going to increase monitoring of the CSG industry.
"The department will sample approximately 300 bores in 2011 and 2012 to further monitor the accuracy of information provided by coal seam gas operators," he added.
The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) said that it supports the move by the Queensland government but added that it believes "adverse impacts from CSG activities upon groundwater are very unlikely and manageable."
Belinda Robinson, chief executive of the APPEA, added: "The publishing of this data demonstrates the industry's commitment to respond to landholder concerns and the industry expects the availability of this data will improve the community's acceptance of our operations."