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Author Topic: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?  (Read 3995 times)

Offline thedoc

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« Last Edit: 16/09/2013 13:58:05 by _system »


 

Offline Expectant_Philosopher

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #1 on: 14/10/2013 04:13:45 »
I've seen the evidence from both sides of the fracking issue vis-a-vis the environmental concerns, from the Natural Gas industry who obviously have a stake in continuing their industry, we get words like "The science behind this technology does not allow for environmental damage."  From the environmentalists we get, "There are no 100% guarantees that you won't make a mistake."  Both sides are earnest and both may be true.  From my point of view we should treat fracking like we do strip mining, where revenue should be set aside to make the land whole.  We have to ensure that money is actually set aside in escrow for environmental amelioration, not just a line item in accounting. Also I believe that an independent environmental survey needs to be done to give everyone the state of the environment before fracking, to create a baseline.  Then when the fracking is in operation, environmental inspections could occur randomly to ascertain whether any negative changes have taken place as compared to the baseline as a result of fracking operations. 
« Last Edit: 14/10/2013 04:15:53 by Expectant_Philosopher »
 

Offline woolyhead

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #2 on: 22/10/2013 20:16:55 »
What a good idea. We'd first have to get enough MPs on our side and if that fails we'd need very many supporters of making an environmental base-line before we start fracking. A newspaper is another polular way, if you could get one with enough readers, to support you. But what could all these supporters actually do about the situation? Write to their MPs? (Now we're back to method 1). The need for abundant energy is a very powerful force and the present government probably wants it yesterday so they wouldn't want to "waste time and money" as they'd say, measuring the environment. This is a difficult problem. 
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #3 on: 22/10/2013 21:39:25 »
One obvious problem is that, even if none leaks (fat chance) you still burn fossil fuel, generate CO2 and increase the greenhouse effect.
 

Offline McQueen

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #4 on: 23/10/2013 14:14:28 »
Fracking:

The nonchalant approach to fracking, from the Government on down is quite awe inspiring. I imagine that this kind of attitude comes from our having developed a kind of ingrained trust that the Government has every bodyís best interests at heart.  Maybe, given such a situation, the best thing to do might be to set out the facts and let people decide on what they think for themselves. To begin with, the same logistics govern fracking as in the normal drilling process. Shale wells start strong and fade fast and a well that might be prolific in the beginning will fade out to next to nothing in just a couple of years.  The good sites get targeted first and the less likely ones later. Fracking is also  more expensive than ordinary drilling for oil or natural gas. Horizontal shale drilling might cost anything from 3.5 million dollars in limestone formations to 9 million dollars  in harder rock formations. The cost of normal vertical drilling would be between  $400,000 to $600,000. The life span of normal oil wells is also spectacularly longer .
Much of the additional cost is due to the additives that are used in shale drilling:-
1)To begin with approximately 5 million gallons (17.5 million litres) of fresh water -salt water wonít do- are needed for each well that is drilled.
2) Mixed into this freshwater are around 50,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid (to dissolve the lime stone).
3) Then 1000 gallons of antibacterial solution are needed to kill the organisms that might eat into the pipes.
4)Next, a surfactant is added to reduce the frictional coefficient of the water and a solution to inhibit scaling.
5) Depending on the make-up of the soil  fungicides maybe added to kill any life forms that might start to grow in the fracked fissures
6) Finally 2 million pounds of sand are mixed with the water to prop the fractures open.
7) Sometime diesel fuel is used (illegally) as an additional additive.

So far so good, it doesnít sound too frightening until you learn that none of that fresh water can ever be used again. True! About 80% of the water used in fracking is supposed to come back to the surface (often it doesnít) but it then has to be put ideally in steel containers, or non contaminating ponds where it will be sequestered for the next few thousands of years! (Yes 100 times worse than nuclear and not many people have caught on!).  It is frightening to think that I watched numerous videos where, these shale oil companies talked about water being treated and less water being used and how the hazards were insignificant. Yet we are so used to water washing things that it is a bit difficult to grasp the fact that the water being used in these wells is gone for ever, OR even more scary is left behind to contaminate the water that still remains. No-one knows exactly what happens to the water that does not come back to the surface, but the thousands of recorded cases of prime farm land turning to wilderness are too numerous to ignore. Another thing that occured to me, is that a cubic foot of natural gas weighs only 22 gms, so each litre of water weighs the equivalent of 45 cubic feet of natural gas, the point I am trying to make is that it is almost weight for weight here, an equal weight of water for an equivalent weight of natural gas.  It is really an all out war that they are waging, while all of us are just sitting back and wondering if its a good thing or not !   The shale oil industry is also employing spin doctors to protect their interests. Not surprisingly, these are the same firms that were hired by the tobacco industry.  We have to make up our minds, sure we are in a bind as far as energy is concerned BUT can we afford to let the Government make decisions like this for us ?
Did you hear how the guy in the"Does fracking contaminate ground water' episode talks about fracking fluid coming back up !! Nothing about sequestering it !!!
« Last Edit: 23/10/2013 16:17:55 by McQueen »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #5 on: 24/10/2013 21:12:21 »
" but it then has to be put ideally in steel containers, or non contaminating ponds where it will be sequestered for the next few thousands of years!"
Why?
For a start, what does it get contaminated with, and for a finish, why not just leave the tops off the drums so the water can evaporate and be recycled as rain?
"Another thing that occured to me, is that a cubic foot of natural gas weighs only 22 gms,"
Not at that depth it doesn't.

Don't get me wrong, I think fracking sucks from practically every point of view, but I think you need to keep the comments accurate and well founded or you risk tainting the objections.
I don't want to see petrochemical companies saying "The anti fracking people said silly things like 'it is almost weight for weight here, an equal weight of water for an equivalent weight of natural gas'. you can't trust them!"

50000 gallons of hydrochloric acid sounds really nasty -until you remember that it reacts with the limestone and is neutralised (but with yet more CO2 production).

"1000 gallons of antibacterial solution" doesn't tell me anything, it could be boring household bleach in which case I really don't care.
Or it could be pentachlorophenol- in which case I think they should be jailed.

"Sometime diesel fuel is used (illegally) as an additional additive."
So, it came out of the ground, putting it back isn't the big issue here- it's a distraction.

"Finally 2 million pounds of sand are mixed with the water to prop the fractures open. "
That's about a thousand tons or a bit of beach thirty metres by thirty and a metre deep.
Who cares?
Wiki tells me that " As of 2006, about 7.5 billion cubic meters of concrete are made each year" and a good part of that is sand.
Another thousand cubic metres of sand isn't the issue.
It's not good news- it would be better to avoid it.

But the real issues are the leaks and the CO2 emissions.
« Last Edit: 24/10/2013 21:14:47 by Bored chemist »
 

Offline McQueen

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #6 on: 24/10/2013 22:00:37 »
It seems to be a valid objection , fracking is an emotive issue. I have tried to set out the facts in as  unbiased a manner as possible and have attempted to  consult numerous sources, some of which are listed below, before coming to any sort of conclusion. This is what fracking water looks like, the clear looking water on the right is still contaminated.

The clear water on the right might behave like this if methane gets into the ground water!

  It is difficult to imagine 17.5 million litres of water, per well,  being contaminated in this way, what is going to happen to the environment ? The emphasis is on the fact that water used for fracking  is literally gone for ever, because it doesnít make economic sense to try and clean it completely. Few people are aware of this fact, water used for fracking, canít be used again. At the most it can be cursorily cleaned and used again for fracking, this is called processed water.  Natural evaporation, provided seepage can be avoided is going to take longer than anyone would like, I am not sure how long it would take to evaporate several million gallons of contaminated water, thousands of years ?  Even after evaporation, it is still going to leave behind a lot of toxic chemicals as it evaporates. Look at the chemicals that are mixed into fracking fluid (see last link),lead, uranium, ethylene glycol, mercury, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde to name just a few.   The Scientific American article points this out, saying that even if fracking fluids are boiled, the toxic residues will be difficult to get rid off.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-can-we-cope-with-the-dirty-water-from-fracking-for-natural-gas-and-oil
http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/fracking-dangers
http://www.dangersoffracking.com/

p.s:"Another thing that occured to me, is that a cubic foot of natural gas weighs only 22 gms,"
Not at that depth it doesn't.

What does it weigh when it gets to the surface ?
« Last Edit: 25/10/2013 15:12:20 by McQueen »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #7 on: 25/10/2013 00:06:16 »
Reusing the water in the next well would certainly seem to be the best plan.

Many oil wells also displace the oil with briny water.  The bottom of an oil well may potentially be a good place to dispose of unwanted waste water. 

Oil tankers often need ballast, and could potentially be used to transport the water from a gas rich area to an oil rich area.

Any way to reduce the load of artificial chemicals added to the fracking fluid?
 

Offline McQueen

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #8 on: 25/10/2013 15:17:38 »
Reusing the water in the next well would certainly seem to be the best plan.
Many oil wells also displace the oil with briny water.  The bottom of an oil well may potentially be a good place to dispose of unwanted waste water.

Could be and the whole point of the post was to set out the facts and allow individual consciences to make up their minds one way or the other, after weighing things up as you seem to be attempting to do. However, take note, Pittsburgh, put an unconditional ban on fracking in 2010 after the water supply to the city was contaminated. Citizens were able to neither bathe nor drink the water and three years on the water is still contaminated. Now oil companies are bullying the US Government to let them into New York. In the UK although protests seem to be more vocal, the Government seems to be going ahead, riding roughshod over public sentiment, look at Suffolk!
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #9 on: 25/10/2013 16:08:14 »
The nonchalant approach to fracking, from the Government on down is quite awe inspiring.
I am tempted to say the same thing about your hold of the facts.
1. You seem to be confusing the fracturing of formations on conventional wells with the fracking carried out on shale gas wells. Both employ the application of high pressures downhole, but the precise methodology is different in each case.
2. When fracking, in shale gas reservoirs, the lithology is - wait for it - shale. (The clue is in the name.) Not limestone. Limestone is commonly fractured and hydrochloric acid is indeed used, however, as noted before this is different from the fracking that has generated concern. This conventional fracturing has been going on for decades without significant issues or complaints. (If you are aware of any I would be interested to hear of them.)
3. A significant proportion of wells drilled today into conventional reservoirs are directional wells. You seem unaware of this.
4. You have soil at, say 3,000' TVD? You seem to think so.

As CliffordK pointed out an arguments central theme becomes degraded if the ancillary facts are wrong or questionable.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
« Reply #10 on: 25/10/2013 18:36:43 »
And, once again.
"Few people are aware of this fact, water used for fracking, canít be used again."
Why not?
There is nothing in that brew that can't be dealt with- for a price. It's a matter of enforcing proper standards.
Those standards would presumably bankrupt the process which is why, in the US, they lobbied for, and won,  exemption from the standards.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exemptions_for_hydraulic_fracturing_under_United_States_federal_law

Surely the best argument against fracking is this: if you enforce the law then you can't do it.

"look at Suffolk! "
I did.
Part of my job involves looking a things like planning permission and let's be absolutely clear about this
There was no planning permission ever sought or granted for fracking at Balcombe.
If you don't believe me check out the planning application. It's on line just like all (almost) planning applications are.
If they had applied for such permission (they didn't) then the public would have been asked for their opinions and any local politician who wanted to keep his job at the next election would have blocked it.
« Last Edit: 25/10/2013 18:45:10 by Bored chemist »
 

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Re: What are the environmental hazards of fracking?
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