Written on the 11 August 2015


LINC Energy has rebuffed claims its underground coal gasification (UCG) facility near Chinchilla has caused serious environmental harm and health concerns.

A Queensland Government report obtained by the ABC shows toxic contamination to groundwater, soil and air at Hopeland.

Four government workers were hospitalised with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning after testing soil at the site in March.

An independent investigation conducted by the oil and gas company shows "a lack of causal evidence" to support the health claims were caused by exposure to contaminants.

It follows a lengthy investigation led by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), resulting in a string of charges filed in April last year for wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm. The charges, along with others brought this year, have yet to be heard.

EHP director-general Jon Black says carbon monoxide, hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide escaped from Linc Energy's site after operating outside its environmental authority.

"These fugitive gases polluted a widespread area by following underground pathways, between two and six metres underground," Black says. "There is no immediate harm caused to agriculture, including grazing or cropping."

UCG differs to coal seam gas, as the coal is heated underground to produce a synthetic gas and extracted through a well. The 'syngas' is used to generate power or chemical products.

Linc Energy owns and operates the world's longest running commercial UCG operation in Uzbekistan, with opportunities to pursue the process in Asia, Europe and Africa.

A statement released by the company says the EHP investigation has used a significant amount of time and resources.

"The costs resulting from continually having to defend ourselves in the media while also getting expert legal and technical advice has had a significant financial impact on Linc Energy although nowhere near as much as the $5 million plus of taxpayer's money the department has spent on the investigation so far to conclude is no risk to public health, air quality or groundwater," says Linc.

"Had our staff and management's time and the Linc Energy's financial resources not been spent on defending itself against these unsubstantiated allegations by the department, Linc Energy would have been able to focus on achieving real environmental outcomes by progressing its plans for a research focused decommissioning and rehabilitation program at Chinchilla consistent with recommendations made to the government by its own Independent Scientific Panel."

The government environmental report is expected to be publicly released next month.







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