THE coal seam gas industry may need to slow down if it is going to extract fuel without destroying the environment, according to an expert in underground geology.
University of Newcastle lecturer and coal geologist Dr Judith Bailey said the CSG industry had the technology to pull resources from the ground with little or no damage to the environment, but it needed a better grasp on what was happening beneath the surface.
The CSG sector denied this, pointing to Queensland's GasFields Commission which had identified 188 ongoing "water-related" research projects currently under way.
The gas industry came under increased scrutiny this week following an investigation by ABC's Four Corners on Monday which made allegations that approvals for multi-billion dollar gas facilities in Gladstone were rushed by Queensland's former Labor government.
A bureaucrat tackling the environmental effects of such projects acted as whistleblower, describing how key information needed to ensure proper diligence was not delivered and how staff concerns were ignored by the government of the day.
The next day, the Greens called for a moratorium on further CSG extraction until more information on any potential damage to the environment was made available.
The Australian Industry Group called or calmer heads at the end of the week, explaining the gas industry was too important for the country's energy supplies to be curtailed without proper consideration.
"What's lacking from the science is before any property is drilled for gas, there should be baseline measurements taken on the surface and in the water," Dr Bailey said.
"You need to know what's changing, if anything, and how much.
"The knowledge of the aquifers (underground water channels) might be what proves to make the industry unsustainable in the long run.
"It's a complex and possibly interconnected system under the ground."
She suggested horizontal drilling - a form of precise resource mining used widely in the oil industry - as an alternative to wells or hydraulic fracturing, or fraccing.
Fraccing is believed to be uncommon in Queensland, with most gas firms preferring to use vertical wells to mine gas.
Horizontal drilling is used sparingly, although Perth gas firm Liberty is growing the practice by pioneering a form of gas extraction that is less invasive and now awaiting Queensland Government approval.
Dr Bailey said the speed at which Queensland's gas industry was growing was reason for concern.
"If you stopped to do the science, you would move more slowly," she said.
"It's the power of money I think."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.