Enrichment of radon and carbon dioxide in the open atmosphere of an Australian coal seam gas field
Atmospheric radon (222Rn) and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations were used to gain insight into fugitive emissions in an Australian coal seam gas (CSG) field (Surat Basin, Tara region, Queensland). 222Rn and CO2 concentrations were observed for 24 h within and outside the gas field. Both 222Rn and CO2 concentrations followed a diurnal cycle with night time concentrations higher than day time concentrations. Average CO2 concentrations over the 24-h period ranged from ~390 ppm at the control site to ~467 ppm near the centre of the gas field. A ~3 fold increase in maximum 222Rn concentration was observed inside the gas field compared to outside of it. There was a significant relationship between maximum and average 222Rn concentrations and the number of gas wells within a 3 km radius of the sampling sites (n=5 stations; p < 0.05). A positive trend was observed between CO2 concentrations and the number of CSG wells, but the relationship was not statistically significant. We hypothesize that the radon relationship was a response to enhanced emissions within the gas field related to both point (well heads, pipelines, etc.) and diffuse soil sources. Radon may be useful in monitoring enhanced soil gas fluxes to the atmosphere due to changes in the geological structure associated with wells and hydraulic fracturing in CSG fields.