Kimberley, Media release, News

Buru admits to elevated levels of chemical and radioactive waste in its fracking ponds

MONDAY, JUNE 25: Buru Energy has admitted that testing of flowback fluids from its 2015 fracking operations in the Kimberley showed elevated levels of the chemical contaminants Boron and Barium and the radionuclide Radium-228.

The admission is contained in Buru’s submission to the WA Fracking Inquiry released today.

The elevated levels of Boron and Barium were found in both Buru’s Asgard 1 and its Valhalla North 1 fracking waste water ponds. The levels exceeded the World Health Organisation limits for acceptable levels for stock water.

Representative samples of flowback fluid from Asgard 1 showed “relatively high concentrations” of the radioactive material Radium-228.

The submission also says that Buru plans to drill 80 fracking wells in its proposed Yulleroo gasfield over the 17 to 20 year expected life of the project and that it plans to use the controversial practice of reinjecting fracking wastewater and flowback fluid into the Kimberley’s Laurel formation.

It says some of its wastewater could be used as drinking water for beef cattle if problematic elevated chemicals were diluted using additional groundwater.

Included in Buru’s plans for its “Yulleroo Conceptual Gasfield”, a gasfield it says will demonstrate the scale of its projects, is a plan to build super well pads with up to ten gas wells per pad that would spiral out for kilometers underground fracking different levels of the formation.

The submission says that it would build a 9ha processing facility in the middle of the gasfield and an additional 9ha waste water holding facility.

A spokesperson for Lock the Gate in WA Jane Hammond said the submission provided frightening insights into the scale of development proposed for the Kimberley.

“Buru is downplaying the size and scale of its pilot gasfield, the proposed Yulleroo gasfield. But 80 fracking wells, 9ha of waste water holding ponds, 100ha of “super well pads”, 16ML of water per well and up to 190 return truck movements of triple road trains per frack, will seem to many people as massive.

“It is alarming that Buru has so far only test fracked a handful of wells in the Kimberley yet by its own admission has found elevated chemicals and radionuclides in its flowback waste water,” Ms Hammond said.

“Its submission to the fracking inquiry also notes that it had three chemical spills during its test fracking program. While these were relatively minor they illustrate that spills can and do happen.

“Its plans for the reinjection of wastewater into the ground is also of concern. Flowback fluids and other waste water are problems the industry has difficulty dealing with so Buru plans to conveniently inject its waste back underground where it will be out of sight and out of mind.

“Fracking has not even started commercially and yet we are already seeing spills, elevated chemicals and radioactive material in waste water ponds and attempts to downplay the scale of the impacts.

“Fracking is not needed or wanted in WA. It is risky, dirty and wasteful. We hope that the WA Government will listen to the thousands of people who made submissions to the WA fracking inquiry calling for a permanent legislated ban on fracking across the state.”

A copy of Buru’s submission can be found here

 

 

Briefing note:

 

Tables showing the elevated levels of Boron and Barium are included above.

 

Below is a copy of page 42 of Buru’s submission to the WA Fracking Inquiry. The page details the elevated levels found in the flowback water.

 

Copy of Page 42 of the report with reference to the contaminants found in the flow back fluid

3.4.6.2. Results of Flowback Water Analysis

The flowback water sampling program is described in Appendix 3 along with laboratory analysis for all collected samples. The COPC in the water retention ponds pre- and post-flowback are also compared to ANZECC Stockwater Guidelines42 and Australian Drinking Water Guidelines43 in Appendix 3.

With the exception of Barium and Boron, all water quality results for flowback water were below guideline levels. Barium was elevated compared to the health values for the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, while Boron was elevated compared to the low risk trigger level in the ANZECC Stockwater Guidelines.

Radiological Analysis

Representative samples from the flowback fluid were also analysed for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs). The results of these analyses are provided in Appendix 3 (Table A3-5). The only samples that exceeded the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines were from Asgard 1 (#122, #160), with a relatively high concentration of Radium-228. The guidelines state that the concentration of radionuclides in drinking water should not result in an annual dose of over 1 mSv for any radionuclide (i.e. if a person consumed that water for a year). The sample with the highest concentration was the Asgard #160 sample, which, using the method described in the guideline, was calculated to result in a potential annual dose of 2.6 mSv. However, the composite sample collected from the flowback pond was well below the guideline level, resulting in a potential annual dose of 0.68 mSv which is below the guideline level.

The concentrations of radionuclides in the flowback ponds are also below the ANZECC Stockwater and irrigation water guidelines. Given the levels of NORMs observed in flowback water, there is no risk to humans or animals associated with exposure to flowback water on site.

3.4.6.3. Beneficial Use of Flowback Water

Opportunities for the beneficial use of flowback water were considered following the 2015 frac program. Characterising flowback water quality to determine if it is suitable for reuse was a key environmental objective of the program.

Despite being unsuitable for drinking, the water is suitable for reuse in subsequent frac programs. Buru Energy provided the analysis results to the frac services and fluid provider and was advised that the flowback water was suitable for reuse in fraccing operations. Reuse of flowback water will reduce the total water use requirements in a commercial field scenario, which is recognised as best practice for minimising water use.

As the dominant land use in the Canning Basin is pastoralism, beneficial reuse of flowback water for beef cattle may also be considered should a gas field be developed. In this case, comparison of flowback water to ANZECC Stockwater guidelines for beef cattle are relevant. Flowback water met ANZECC Stockwater guidelines with the exception of chloride and boron. While specific values are not provided for chloride under the Stockwater guidelines, the value of 17,000 mg/L for chloride exceeds the maximum 4,000 mg/L TDS for beef cattle. Concentration of boron in flowback water (9.4 mg/L at Asgard 1, 14 mg/L at Valhalla North 1) also exceeds concentrations of boron under the Stockwater guidelines for beef cattle (5 mg/L). If deemed worthwhile, these exceedances could be addressed through dilution with bore water prior to providing the water for pastoral use.

42 ANZECC and ARMCANZ (2000). Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality. National Water Quality Management Strategy, Paper No. 4. October 2000.
43 NHMRC and NRMMC (2011). Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. National Water Quality Management Strategy. Updated October 2017.

Buru Energy Submission Scientific Inquiry Fraccing WA_Final Buru Energy Limited 42