BTEX chemicals, some of the more dangerous chemicals used in coal seam gas drilling and fracking, have been banned in New South Wales since 2012. So when they were detected in flowback water samples at gas fields in Gloucester, operators AGL were in trouble.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that AGL’s activities in the region have been suspended by Energy Minister Anthony Roberts, pending an investigation by the Environmental Protection Authority. The company has stated that these chemicals were not used in their fracking process, as per regulations, and that they were most likely naturally present in the coal seams. BTEX chemicals are Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes. AGL voluntarily suspended its operations ahead of official notice, ‘in the interests of acting prudently.’
However, AGL has come under fire for not disclosing information about the presence of these chemicals sooner, as it has been aware of them since January 15. A spokesperson for the EPA has said, ‘the EPA is very concerned at AGL’s lack of timeliness and transparency in informing us of these results and we will be conducting a full investigation.’