Climate Analytics says onshore emissions of proposed fracking understated by up to 84% in ‘a rosy picture that simply doesn’t reflect reality’
Fracking to extract gas from the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin could lead to much larger greenhouse gas emissions than the territory government has claimed, according to new analysis.
The report by Climate Analytics, and commissioned by the Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation, finds the projected emissions associated with proposed gas developments in the Beetaloo basin had been significantly underestimated in government modelling, while the availability of carbon offsets had been overestimated.
In May, the NT government announced it was satisfied it had met the recommendations of a scientific inquiry into fracking, including a key recommendation – recommendation 9.8 – meant to deal with the climate risk associated with new gas projects.
Underpinning its decision was a report by the national science agency CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA), which receives funding from the gas industry.
That report found emissions from fracking in the basin could be either fully reduced or offset within Australia. If production was particularly high, it would also require offsets bought from overseas. Use of international offsets is not permitted under the federal government’s safeguard mechanism.
Climate Analytics examined this report and found it “underestimated emissions for the Beetaloo project and its associated LNG production facilities across the board, across all areas of the proposed project, from methane leakage on extraction to liquefaction emissions intensity”.
“We estimate these emissions would add up to 11% of Australia’s 2021 emissions,” the authors state.
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A CSIRO spokesperson said the agency “stands behind the quality of its research and the integrity of its peer review process”.
The Climate Analytics analysis finds the GISERA report significantly underestimated projected methane leakage associated with gas projects by at least 56%; underestimated the emissions that would arise from liquefied natural gas production by 57% to 89%; and underestimated the intensity of direct emissions associated with gas projects by 44% to 110%.
It finds the CSIRO modelling “underestimated annual onshore emissions by up to 84% from the scenarios used”.
“Everywhere we looked, we found the GISERA report had significantly underestimated emissions factors – from the emissions intensity of fracked gas, to methane loss and leakage, LNG production, the availability of offsets and the capture rate for carbon capture,” said Climate Analytics analyst and report author Thomas Houlie.
He said all of this added up “to a rosy picture that simply doesn’t reflect reality”.
The Climate Analytics report argues the government’s modelling had also focused too heavily on using offsets to mitigate emissions – rather than making direct emissions cuts – and overestimated the availability of offsets in Australia.
Bill Hare, the chief executive of Climate Analytics, said the modelling relied on by the government was “flat out wrong” and “these projects would produce a climate bomb that cannot be offset”.
The analysis has been submitted to a Senate inquiry examining the proposed Middle Arm development on Darwin harbour.