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Author Topic: Should the UK explore fracking?  (Read 3197 times)

Offline thedoc

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Should the UK explore fracking?
« on: 16/09/2013 12:31:46 »
Is fracking an energy source the UK should explore? Or is it a risk too far?
Read a transcript of the interview by clicking here

or Listen to it now or [download as MP3]
« Last Edit: 16/09/2013 12:31:46 by _system »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #1 on: 16/09/2013 20:16:52 »
Perhaps the UK should start slowly.  Authorize a couple of initial drill holes, but not start hundreds or thousands of holes across the country...  just yet.

Indications that well contamination is real, at least in a few cases.  Perhaps over the next decade more technology will be developed to improve techniques, safety, and decrease gas losses.  Also predicting which types of wells are most likely to become problematic.
 

Offline Mazurka

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #2 on: 19/09/2013 10:13:58 »
If (and sadly I have no faith that they will do it) the current UK governement put in place the level of regulation that will reassure the public and genuinely protect the environment, then Fracking is unlikely to lead to the economic boom that the advocates of fracking predict.

One of the prime potential sources of pollution that the article overlooks is the water used for the fracturing process and returned to the surface (as compared to the risk of groundwater contamination).  This is highly contaminated.  It can of course be treated to an appropriate standard (whether to go into a sewer if there is one nearby or to be discharged directly into a stream or river.  If this is done in a traditional lagoon system (rather than an enclosed tank) should there be an extreme weather event and the site flood (even over a very short time) there is a significant risk - as has just been demonstrated in Colorado.

It is also remarkable that the more obvious middleground - coal bed methane extraction - seems to have been overlooked. CBM does not necessarily need to be fracked as seams can be directionally drilled.  It can extract from seams too narrow to work by traditional underground methods.  The seatearths assocaited with the coal tend to be highly impermeable so tend to confine both gas and water to particular horizons.   Ok it still results in the fossil fuel dilemma, but significantly reduces the risks to the environment of extraction.

I am also slightly alarmed that the sustainabillity expert seemed to indicate that a Severn Barrage would be a good thing.  Whilst it could generate lots of power it would destroy an internationally important habitat.

 

Online alancalverd

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #3 on: 19/09/2013 14:46:16 »
If any energy technology is potentially less dangerous than mining and burning coal, less prone to political blackmail than imported oil or gas, and less ridiculous than windmills, it should be explored without delay.

The government will of course ensure that the retail cost of energy continues to rise (the green vote is crucial to maintaing a parliamentary majority, however insane it may be), and all the profits will go to overseas companies that pay no UK taxes. To do otherwise would reek of socialism (if the public purse were to benefit), cronyinsm (if UK private capital was involved) or competence, and no politician wants to be accused of any of those things.   

I'm not convinced about "pollutants". What comes out of the ground is either inorganic rock sludge that can be turned into building materials or industrial feedstock, or organic combustibles that can be burned in any way that produces useful heat. 
« Last Edit: 19/09/2013 14:48:25 by alancalverd »
 

Offline Mazurka

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #4 on: 19/09/2013 15:38:51 »

I'm not convinced about "pollutants". What comes out of the ground is either inorganic rock sludge that can be turned into building materials or industrial feedstock, or organic combustibles that can be burned in any way that produces useful heat. 
Eh?  You can turn drill core into building material or industrial feedstock?  Really??? I had not heard of that - any references?

It is not necesarily what comes into the ground to frack the well,  it is what is returned to the surface after being put into the ground to cause the fractures and get the proppant into the fractures.  OK, fluid recovery rates are only around 1/3 of what is put down, but that can still be anywhere between 1000 & 4000 metres cube per fracking episode.  OK, per individual well this is not a huge amount, but if the industry develops as hoped, this adds up very quickly.
 

Online alancalverd

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #5 on: 19/09/2013 16:39:17 »
Rock is rock. If it contains heavy metals, it may be worthwhile extracting them. "Just hard silicates" still makes useful ballast for concrete. Clay, slate and other alluvial gunge makes bricks. Waste not, want not.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #6 on: 19/09/2013 18:12:04 »
It would seem to me that the fracking fluid should be able to be re-used from one well to the next.  Perhaps centrifuge it to get the particulates out, (then add the desired particulates) then blow it down the next hole.  Especially if one is drilling several holes in the same region.

Are there concerns of cross-contaminating deep brackish water?
 

Offline Mazurka

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #7 on: 20/09/2013 09:36:20 »
Rock is rock. If it contains heavy metals, it may be worthwhile extracting them. "Just hard silicates" still makes useful ballast for concrete. Clay, slate and other alluvial gunge makes bricks. Waste not, want not.
No, all rock is not equal - physical properties vary considerably and this means some rock is suitable for use as an aggregate in concrete and others are not.  Equally with clays and "alluvial gunge" the properties vary considerably - particularly the size distribution and Atterberg limits - a glacial diamict is almost completley useless for making bricks as the cost of seperating clay from gravel would not be economic.

In any case, a 1000m deep 300mm diameter well will produce less than 280m3 of rock so depending on the type of rock, this will could be up to about 750 tonnes.  A small "production" blast at a quarry will release  around  10,000 tonnes...

It is simply not economic to haul a few tonnes of waste material to a suitable plant (concrete batching / prodcuts, brickworks etc.).  in any case often the core is retained  to help geologists characterise the rocks and better understand the formations being drilled.

I agree with Cliffordk that where possible fracking fluids should be reused and I understand that this is increasingly happening in the US, but, this returns to my original point, this Industry will only do something if it is either cheaper/ more convienient  than the alternative or it is required to by regulation.  The bottome line is that regulation tends to cost the industry money.    If the costs exceed the revenue generated, it simpy won't happen.  Whislt it remains the case that UK / EU legislation to protect the environment is a lot tighter than that in the US, some of the risks assocaited with Fracking are so poorly understood / characterised that the regulation has not yet caught up.     
 

Online alancalverd

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #8 on: 20/09/2013 14:03:27 »
Well, either 750 tonnes is significant or it isn't. I'd vote for insignificant. And if the fluids are chemically active, there's almost certainly some value in recovering them. Even car washes recycle their water nowadays.

My favourite story of antipollution regulations came from a friend's papermill. The river authority granted a licence to extract and discharge as much as they wanted from and to the river, provided that the discharge was upstream of the intake, and both were within the riparian frontage of the plant.   
 

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Re: Should the UK explore fracking?
« Reply #8 on: 20/09/2013 14:03:27 »

 

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