Support materials only that illustrate some possible contexts for exploring Science as a Human Endeavour concepts in relation to Science Understanding content.
The location and assessment of resources for extraction can be an expensive and time consuming process. However it is critical that it be done accurately if resources are to be extracted in a sustainable and profitable manner. Modern technologies have had a large impact on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of this process, including the use of aerial and satellite imagery to map resource location, use of software packages to model resource distribution, and validation of the model using technologies such as seismic surveys (ACSES064). A feasibility study is then conducted to determine whether the resource can be extracted effectively and profitably. This includes not only an estimate of the size and value of the resource, but also a detailed analysis of suitable extraction methods and any processing techniques needed to refine the commodity, the capital and operating costs of the operation, and its environmental impacts (ACSES070). Other key parameters such as availability of support facilities and infrastructure, site access and social impacts are also investigated and evaluated.
Australia has relatively large coal seam gas reserves (CSG) and the CSG industry is rapidly expanding. Proponents of the CSG industry argue it will deliver economic benefits for regional towns and cities, and represents a cleaner energy source than coal. However there is also significant resistance to the rapid development of the industry, including competition issues with relation to agricultural and reserve land, and environmental impacts on landscapes and aquifers (ACSES066). A CSG plant, while causing much less physical damage to the land surface than conventional mining, fragments pasture or habitat with a large number of pipes, compressor stations and access roads. These are typically set up on a 200 to 750 metre grid pattern, depending on the nature of the coal seam. Environmental concerns include the emissions produced from extracting the gas and condensing it into a liquid form, and the extraction of water in order to access the CSG. Community concern over CSG industry development also reflects the limited information available on the long-term impacts of CSG industries (ACSES067).
One of the main concerns associated with resource extraction is greenhouse gas pollution in the form of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbon emissions. The Kyoto Protocol adopted by the United Nations in 1997 sets obligations for industrialised countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (ACSES069). One approach to reduce the level of carbon dioxide emissions adopted by the European Union, some American states and Australia has been to introduce carbon pricing. Carbon pricing can provide funds for investment in cleaner energy, and aims to act as an incentive for businesses to reduce their pollution. There is debate about the effectiveness of carbon pricing in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, partly because there are a number of factors that contribute to a reduction in emissions, including a decrease in economic activity, and these make it difficult to attribute significance to a single factor (ACSES068).