Environment & Sustainability Program

Sustainable Staffing Solutions: D-Skilled Staffing’s Commitment to the Environment

Climate-heating methane gas is leaking or being vented from more than 100 places across 35 fossil fuel sites in Queensland and New South Wales, according to an investigation by environmental organisations.

The Australian Conservation Foundation commissioned the US-based Clean Air Task Force, a global nonprofit, to use new technology to monitor if methane was leaking from coalmines and gas facilities owned by energy giants Santos and Origin and pipeline company Jemena.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the global heating impact of CO2 over a 20-year period when released into the atmosphere.

Revealed: 1,000 super-emitting methane leaks risk triggering climate tipping points

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The two groups released infrared videos on Tuesday that they said showed gas escaping from a range of infrastructure and mines. The organisations said the videos were recorded over a four-week period in which they visited 80 sites to take a snapshot of Australia’s fossil fuel infrastructure.

They said they found:

  • At least 25 visible leaks or venting places along major Jemena pipelines in the Darling Downs and in New South Wales between Newcastle and Wollongong.

  • At least 10 leaks or venting places at coal seam gas wells owned by Origin.

  • Methane being released from at least four of Santos’ seven coal seam gas wells in NSW’s Pilliga/Bibblewindi forest.

The claims were immediately rejected by two of the companies named. Origin and Santos said they had checked their gas wells after the claims were raised this week and found no leaks. Santos said a routine leak detection inspection last month by the NSW Environment Protection Authority also found no leaks.

The researchers did not suggest the companies were acting illegally, or that they were hiding emissions deliberately. They said they were concerned there was a systemic problem that was not properly regulated.

They said the videos lent further weight to previous studies that found the amount of methane released into the atmosphere was higher than reported. Data released by the International Energy Agency has suggested methane from Australian coalmines and gas production could be more than 60% higher than federal government estimates. Methane has been estimated to have caused nearly a third of the 1.2C increase in average global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s lead investigator, Annica Schoo, said the organisations had used thermal technology to detect the gas leaks. She said it showed the Albanese government needed a plan that required companies to measure and report on methane emissions properly, install technology to cut methane emissions and rehabilitate abandoned mines.

“The plan should require companies to find and fix leaks as soon as they can,” she said. “The fact is, we just don’t know how much climate-heating methane is leaking from coal and gas in Australia because the regulations are so weak and underreporting is rife.”

Australia has signed up to a global methane pledge to cut emissions by 30% in the decade to 2030.

“In times of heated debates on energy cost, seeing all this gas wasted and supercharging climate change is deeply worrying,” he said.

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A Santos spokesperson said the company responded to the claims of leaking and venting by running tests using thermal imagery and gas detection equipment.

The spokesperson said the company aimed to reduce its operational methane emissions over the next three years by replacing equipment and devices with more efficient and advanced technology and retrofitting facilities to reduce both venting and flaring.

Schoo said not everything recorded leaking or venting would be methane, but the onus was on the gas companies to know what they were releasing into the atmosphere. Methane is the largest component of natural gas.

She asked the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, if the government would legislate to “properly measure and stop leaking and venting of methane”.

Bowen said he agreed methane was “a very important issue”, and the government was acting to ensure methane measurements were accurate.

 “I’ve sent references to bodies including the Climate Change Authority … to ensure methane measurement is as accurate as possible. A genuine process is well under way, and I will update the [parliament] further when I have received further advice.”

Jemena did not reply to requests for a response to the allegations on Tuesday.

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The environmental problems threatening our planet and society are complex and multi-disciplinary. Students wanting to learn how to tackle these problems need training in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

William & Mary has one of the most innovative and integrative environmental programs in the nation. Our undergraduate program offers tracks in science, policy and the humanities. All three tracks integrate knowledge and skills across the disciplines while students maintain a core expertise in their primary major.

Our curriculum spans the disciplines, and so does our research. Faculty from many departments use the resources of the Keck Environmental Field Laboratory for their work: both to deepen our understanding of the causes of environmental problems, and to experiment with potential solutions.

We also have numerous partnerships with community and governmental groups, working to monitor local and global environmental issues and solve real-life problems relevant to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.

Read more about our goals…

Scams have become big business in Australia, thanks to a lack of a standardized approach in addressing them. That is set to change, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approving a move for the financial sector to share insights and collaborate on new industry standards.

Scams cost Australians $3.1 billion in 2022 — an 80% increase over 2021. $1.5 billion came from investment scams, with remote access scams ($229 million) and payment redirection scams ($224 million) rounding out the top three.

The ABA has proposed that a bank industry standard in this area can form the building blocks of the legislated cross-industry code.

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Collaboration is essential to combat scams

The ACCC said in a statement on why it granted the interim authorization, “ … a coordinated response across government, law enforcement and the private sector is essential to effectively combat scams that are evolving rapidly and with increasing sophistication.”

Must-read security coverage

The Australian banking sector, for its part, has already been looking for ways to work together to combat fraud. In May, 17 banks announced that, thanks to a collaboration between them, they had been able to halve the time it takes to identify and block payments to scam operators.

This initiative cross-matches data between participating banks and allows for nearly real-time communication of fraudulent transactions across the network.

Other government initiatives, meanwhile, include the new National Anti-Scams Centre, which went live on July 1. This organization will enable faster sharing of information, so police and regulators can act on scams more quickly.

Banks could be doing more

Despite all of this, there are calls for Australian banks to do more. The CEO of the Consumer Action Law Centre, Stephanie Tonkin, pointed out that scams weren’t eating into bank profits.

“Despite their increasing profit margins, the major banks continue to underplay a crisis that is affecting thousands of their customers and causing untold financial and emotional distress in the community,” Tonkin said. “Banks argue that it is the individual’s responsibility to recognize and prevent scams, even though scams are becoming increasingly complex, elaborate and sophisticated — often impersonating or replicating the banks’ own platforms.

“Customers who lose money this way are rarely reimbursed by their bank, and if they are, the amount is often a small proportion of that loss.”

However, there’s more to the issue than simply throwing money at it. Banks often face the tension between security and meeting customer expectations around the user experience. Some banks are turning to AI as a possible solution. In July of last year, Commonwealth Bank announced the use of AI technology to detect suspicious and unusual behavior on its platforms.

Globally, there’s also a big push towards biometrics as an “unbreakable” approach to security.

However, in an often-cited example of how effective it can be, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation reduced $500 million in fraud using consumer voice and its VoiceID tech.

PwC’s five steps toward combating fraud

Across all of financial services, PwC Australia believes the crux of the problem is simple: Scammers are getting better at their jobs, and ad-hoc approaches to security and fraud prevention won’t cut it.

In addition to collaborating on a whole-of-sector approach, bank security teams need to redouble their focus in five key areas.

1. Understand fraud risks and controls

Financial services security teams could be more proactive with addressing fraud risks. This assessment will also highlight controls that may introduce excessive friction in the customer experience and highlight how the organization might approach rationalizing the two.

2. Maintain rigorous identity verification and authentication processes

PwC research found that know-your-customer failures remain the most disruptive issue for many financial services organizations, perhaps explaining why so many are turning to AI. After all, being able to quickly detect and flag unusual behavior and questionable onboarding is the quickest way to minimize the risk of a KYC failure.

3. Invest in a cohesive detection tool set

PwC finds that Australian financial institutions continue to lag other regions with investing in fraud prevention and detection technology. This is beginning to change with these recent steps around collaboration. However, there’s still a need for banks to look within themselves, apply AI and machine learning, and build more robust customer intelligence around authentication, transaction patterns and biometric data.

4. Introduce auto-blocks for high-risk scam activity

5. Educate customers

Financial services are becoming more proactive in warning customers about security threats.

Cross-banking collaboration aims to leverage technology to combat scams

Addressing Australia’s financial services scam epidemic will rely on all levels working in collaboration with regulators, the financial services themselves and consumers. This means facilitating real-time sharing of data across the sector and the use of AI to proactively identify and flag high-risk interactions.

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