Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so” - fracking

“Things you know that ain't so”: Fracking is risky and dangerous and should be banned

According to one website, “Fracking brings rampant environmental and economic problems to communities across the country.… Fracking accidents and leaks pollute rivers, streams and underground sources of drinking water.”

Much of the opposition goes back to a movie called “Gasland” that grossly exaggerated the effects of fracking by showing pictures of flaming tapwater, a fishkill caused by coal mine run-off, and so on.

On the other hand, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society (UK) say that  “The health, safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing (often termed ‘fracking’)as a means to extract shale gas can be managed effectively in the UK as long as operational best practices are implemented …. Hydraulic fracturing is an established technology that has been used in the oil and gas industries for many decades.”

In 2012, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment concluded that “…the environmental risks associated with fracking can be managed effectively…” 

Hydraulic fracturing has been around since the 1920s. Over the last 10 years or so it has become cheaper and better and is now very widely used. Basically, instead of drilling multiple vertical holes to extract gas or oil the drill hole is directed to go horizontally when it gets into gas bearing strata. Water and some chemicals – often similar to dishwashing liquid – are injected into the strata to cause the rock to fracture and so release the tightly bound gas and oil.

It is widely used in the USA and it is one reason the USA recovered faster than Europe following the 2008 global financial crisis. It was also a major factor in the recent massive drop in oil prices.

Environmentally, its major effect has been to cause a marked reduction in coal-fired generation because cleaner and more efficient gas-fired plants have replaced old polluting coal-fired power stations. It is also beneficial from a land use point of view because many wells can now be drilled from a single rig on the surface.

Those who oppose it claim that it contaminates groundwater, releases gas to the atmosphere and causes earthquakes.

Compared with conventional well drilling, fracking is usually carried out at much greater depths and beneath very tight geology. So the chances of fracking fluids migrating thousands of metres into a water aquifer are very small indeed. There appears to be no evidence that it has happened.

Any well that is not properly cased in its upper sections is likely to release gas into the atmosphere. It is not something that is peculiar to fracking and it represents a loss of revenue to the well owners. There is no evidence that fracking releases more gas to the atmosphere than conventional well drilling.

Fracking can cause earthquakes because it can release locked up stresses. These stresses represent earthquakes that will happen one day anyway, so releasing them before they have built up enough to cause a natural earthquake should be regarded as a beneficial effect. Anyway, the earthquakes are tiny and, in the UK, less significant than those caused by coal mining. In New Zealand, they are likely to be similar to earthquakes that happen every day in New Zealand.

The conclusion is that fracking is no more risky or dangerous than conventional well drilling and could bring huge benefits to New Zealand. It is sad that so many people have jumped to the conclusion it is that it is unacceptably dangerous without bothering to study the evidence.


Kit Carr said...

This flies in the face of reality ... by now most people understand that the Engineers involved have a vested financial interest in promoting fracking because it keeps their members in highly paid employment.

So far as fracking being any part of the reasons why the recent oil price falls ... I'll have a bottle of whatever the author has been drinking and I'll follow him right on down the rabbit hole.

The recent price drops have actually put a stop to most fracking projects as the capital costs of recovering oil and gas could no longer be justified.

As for 'managing the environmental risks' what can I say to that ... it's just so much hot air. Oil companies the world over say this, and dimwitted politicians nod their heads and agree based on material that they're barely able (if at all) to understand ... they get a short term economic benefit (maybe) but when it goes awry the nation is left with a mess and the the costs of their 'failures to manage'

But as this is moderated by the author dissent to his views is unlikely to be seen ...

Anonymous said...

I disagree. When oil, gas, et al are removed, something must replace the void left. IMHO the Earth sinks to replace the void. Do it enough and there must be an ongoing effect.

Glenn G said...

Hell anonymous,
what do you think happens with a conventional oil well, they fill the void up with water & buggar me the oil comes to the top, who would have thought ???
The earth doesn't go there cause the hole is now full of water instead of oil, whats the difference with fracking ? Face it none of us know that much about it, but there will be experts out there with PRACTICAL experience that know exactly what will happen & using common sense instead of histeria I can see their point of view & have no problem with it based on what little I know about it. As for Kit I think you are are part of the histeria brigade as you haven't said a word that would convince anyone to go against what the author has said, & it looks as though he has published your views in order to demonstate peoples ignorance towards the subject

Anonymous said...

You're wrong about pollutes the air for the people they frack by.