AGL announced yesterday that the manager of its upstream gas business, Mike Mozra, will depart the company early, only weeks after it admitted it had delayed reporting the presence of BTEX chemicals in flowback water from its Gloucester CSG drilling wells to the EPA.
Mr Mozra abruptly decided to bring forward his retirement after the regulator suspended operations at AGL’s Gloucester CSG exploration site, where the incident took place.
He will be replaced by Scott Thomas, GM of the coal-fired generating business AGL-Macquarie, which the company bought from the state government.
AGL is not shying away from its controversial gas business, however, and production at the company’s CSG facility at Camden, in outer suburban Sydney, continues.
CEO Andy Vesey told reporters CSG ‘has the potential to provide vital gas resources for our NSW customers and is set to contribute significantly to our balance sheet and deliver solid returns to our shareholders’.
He added that it ‘was important to get the structure right’.
Mr Vesey himself has only been in the role a week, after taking over from outgoing CEO Michael Fraser.
But community opponents of the industry, Groundswell Gloucester, have seen it as an important move in their battle to drive the company out of the Gloucester valley.
‘The review is long overdue and can only lead to one conclusion,’ Groundswell Gloucester spokesperson John Watts told Fairfax media. ‘The CSG operations are not appropriate, not viable and should never have started in the first place.’
Council expels company
AGL’s trouble’s don’t end there, with Gloucester mayor John Rosenbaum announcing the council expelled the company on Wednesday from its monthly Gloucester Dialogue program, which it set up to facilitate community consultation about the project.
But mayor Rosenbaum said company representatives had withheld information about the BTEX issue from the Dialogue.
The council initiative was intended to ‘bring the company, government, council and community representatives together to exchange information between one another’ and ‘be up front’, Mr Rosenbaum told ABC radio’s Rural Report this morning.
But Mr Rosenbaum said that over a period of 18 months councillors felt they were ‘being fed snippets of information and weren’t being informed about the day-to-day operations’.
‘With the BTEX issue, they sat in that room on the 22nd [of January] … and there was no mention or disclosure that they were concerned about the BTEX levels or that they were going to inform the government. Even the EPA sat in that room – and they were astounded that there was no mention at all.’
‘What this leads me to question is [whether] they are just feeding the information that they want to and withholding information that could cause them some problems,’ he told the program.
Gloucester Shire Council voted 5-2 to expel the company from the dialogue, which will continue with the government authorities that oversee AGL’s CSG operations reporting on its activity.
The council also voted to have AGL halt its operations until the company resolved problems related to its disposal of wastewater.
AGL’s internal review is expected to report in three months.
EPA investigation continues
Meanwhile the EPA continues its investigation into AGL’s operations at the site.
EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said in a media announcement last week the EPA will not permit AGL to commence operations at its Gloucester coal seam gas site until it is satisfied that the operations can be conducted in a manner that does not pose a risk to the environment.
‘As part of its investigation, EPA officers have taken samples from all four wells at the Gloucester site and the storage tank and the results of those samples are currently being analysed,’ Mr Gifford said.
‘We understand the community’s high level of interest in this issue and their need for answers, and we are working through our investigation thoroughly and as quickly as possible.’
AGL informed the agencies on 27 January of the presence of BTEX chemicals in water samples from one of its wells. The EPA served AGL with a notice on 28 January directing the company to provide sampling results, quality assurance/quality control reports and other documentation to the EPA by 12 February.
‘I can confirm that AGL has now provided all the required information to the EPA and we are currently reviewing it,’ said Mr Gifford.
The EPA is also continuing to investigate detections of monoethanolamine borate found in ground and surface water monitoring data during November 2014 at AGL’s Gloucester operations.