AGL has taken a range of steps to reassure the community of Macarthur that a substance released from AGL's Sugarloaf 3 gas well was nothing more than harmless soap mist.
AGL Group General Manager Upstream Gas, Mike Moraza, said the release was non toxic, non hazardous and biodegradable. He said most of the bubbles, which were produced when water, soap and air were pumped into the well as part of a routine maintenance procedure, dissipated on contact with air.
The rest fell within 30m of the well. Mr Moraza rejected any claims that the substance posed a risk to the community, environment or local water supplies.
However, in an effort to give the local community peace of mind, AGL has taken a range of steps to look into the matter, including:
- Reporting the incident to the Environment Protection Authority;
- Reporting the incident to the Department of Industry and Investment;
- Launching an internal investigation into why the substance was released;
- Sending soil and water samples to a laboratory for independent testing; and
- Informing local landowners and tenants.
Mr Moraza said the release had nothing to do with fracture stimulation, which had been suggested by a politician who filmed the incident.
"I want to reassure the local community that while we understand the images of this release of soap mist may be concerning for some people, we firmly believe that these soap bubbles were harmless," Mr Moraza said.
"No chemicals have ever been used to fracture stimulate this well. The flow of gas in this well was originally fracture stimulated twice in April 2006 using nothing but water and sand, and it has not been done since.
"Any claims that this release might have caused old chemicals to be brought to the surface are baseless. Although the substance was not harmful, AGL has notified the Environment Protection Agency, the Department of Industry and Investment, and landowners and tenants to provide the community with peace of mind."
However, Mr Moraza said the incident should not have happened.
"AGL takes its environmental and safety responsibilities very seriously and there's no doubt this substance should have been contained in onsite tanks and not allowed to flow into the air," he said.
"That's why we will find out what went wrong and make sure procedures are in place to guard against this happening again."
Mr Moraza said the results of the lab testing would be made public. AGL will also provide a further explanation once the internal investigation is completed.
AGL is one of Australia's leading integrated renewable energy companies and is taking action toward creating a sustainable energy future for our investors, communities and customers. Drawing on 175 years of experience, AGL operates retail and merchant energy businesses, power generation assets and an upstream gas portfolio. AGL has one of Australia's largest retail energy and dual fuel customer bases. AGL has a diverse power generation portfolio including base, peaking and intermediate generation plants, spread across traditional thermal generation as well as renewable sources including hydro, wind, landfill gas and biomass. AGL is Australia's largest private owner and operator of renewable energy assets and is looking to further expand this position by exploring a suite of low emission and renewable energy generation development opportunities.