WORLD-first research from two scientists at Southern Cross University has found methane levels in the air and water in areas where coal seam gas mining has taken place are up to 10 times that in unmined areas.
Dr Isaac Santos and Dr Damien Maher took thousands of air and water samples from gas fields near Tara in Southern Queensland and compared them with samples from the Northern Rivers region where a number of coal seam gas wells have been proposed.
They found methane levels in creeks around Tara were up to 10 times higher than in the Northern Rivers and up to three times higher in the atmosphere.
These findings undermine claims by CSG industry representatives that the industry can drastically reduce Australia's green- house emissions if it is given the go-ahead.
Before Dr Santos and Dr Maher had completely released their findings, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), a pro-CSG lobby group, questioned the rigour of their scientific methodology.
"Incomplete research from Southern Cross University academics this week lacks the basics of scientific rigour," said APPEA chief operating officer Eastern Region, Rick Wilkinson.
Mr Wilkinson went on to say it is not possible to link higher levels of methane in the Tara area to the presence of the gas industry.
"Irrespective of any difference in readings, the fact people assume that difference is because of the presence of a gas industry suggests a flawed methodology," he said.
"We have multiple lines of evidence which suggest that the higher levels of methane in these areas are linked to CSG."
Dr Maher also said methane magnified heat 25 times more strongly than carbon dioxide and increased methane emissions, as a result of CSG development, would contribute to atmospheric change which he linked to global warming.
Dr Maher acknowledged there were no direct consequences of increased methane levels for people's health, however, he said methane was only one of the gases that could leak from a coal seam and further research would be needed to assess the consequences of these other gases leaking into the atmosphere.
CSG exploration in the Clarence Valley has been approved by the O'Farrell Government with limited production approved for wells in the Richmond Valley.