The Bentonite Abandonment Plugs project provides Queensland with a unique opportunity to drive technical change in an international industry. The new AQIP funding will capitalise on previous significant research investment by the coal seam gas (CSG) industry and UQ to produce a major step forward in product development. In the coal seam gas industry, once a gas well has been decommissioned, it has to be plugged to ensure it does not cause any environmental damage.
Professor Brian Towler has contributed significant research to develop methods for the use of bentonite, a kind of absorbent clay, to fill former gas wells which are in perfect condition.
The new research will provide improved plugging solutions for critical groundwater infrastructure as well as the oil and gas sector and a reliable management solution in respect of legacy coal exploration bores emitting greenhouse gases. These are wells or bores which have deteriorated or non-existing casing. Currently, there are >110 000 water bores in Queensland that will deteriorate over time and require effective plugging. There are also unsealed legacy coal exploration bores that can emit methane, contributing to the State’s carbon emission profile.
It is estimated that there are up to 130,000 legacy holes in the Surat & Bowen basins alone - an investigation is required to identify significant emitters that require plugging. The project could lead to an increase in bentonite mining in Queensland as well as the development of new plugging equipment based on this technology. Industry partners include major CSG/LNG companies QGC Ltd, Santos Ltd, Australia Pacific LNG Pty Ltd and Arrow Energy Ltd.