The Anonymous Widower

Fracking Hell…Is It The End?

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

The article is an interesting read.

These two paragraphs are key.

Activism by Extinction Rebellion and growing public concern about climate change have weakened the chances of an industry once expected to create 64,500 jobs ever getting off the ground.

Cuadrilla Resources, the fracking company most active in Britain, has in recent days been removing equipment from its sole operating site in Lancashire. Petrochemicals tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe has vowed to pursue shale gas exploration overseas because of “archaic” and “unworkable” regulations at home.

But I think it’s more complicated than that!

I sometimes go to lectures at the Geological Society of London and two stand were about fracking.

Two were about fracking.

Fracked or fiction: so what are the risks associated with shale gas exploitation?- Click for more.

This is a video of the lecture.

What Coal Mining Hydrogeology Tells us about the Real Risks of Fracking – Click for more.

This is a video of the lecture.

This is a must-watch video from a good speaker.

I have also written several posts about fracking, with some of the earliest being in 2012-2013.

I have just re-read all of my posts.

  • In the posts I have tried to give information and at times, I have said we should start fracking.
  • But we should only start if we know what we’re doing.
  • In several places I ask for more research.

However, there are some interesting facts and inconvenient truths about fracking and natural gas in general.

  • Russia earns about €300billion a year or twenty percent of its GDP from gas exports to Europe. See Should We Nuke Russia?.
  • Putin backs the anti-fracking movement. See Russia ‘secretly working with environmentalists to oppose fracking’.
  • Fracking techniques  is used in the Scottish Highlands to obtain clean water from deep underground. See the second Geological Society of London video.
  • About forty per cent of gas usage is to heat housing. See the second  video.
  • The eighteen percent of the UK population, who don’t have a gas supply are more likely to be in fuel poverty. See the second  video.
  • Scotland has more need for energy to provide heat. See the second  video.
  • Natural gas with carbon capture and storage has a similar carbon footprint to solar power. See the second video.
  • Cowboy fracking, as practised in the United States, would not be allowed in the UK or the EU. See the second  video.
  • We have no historic earthquake database of the UK, which would help in regulation and research of fracking. See the second video.
  • Fracking has brought down the price of gas in North America.
  • In the United States fracked gas is cutting the need to burn coal, which produces more pollution and carbon dioxide to generate the same amount of energy. See A Benefit Of Fracking.

The article in the Sunday Times says pressure against fracking has started the shutdown of the industry in the UK.

But there is another big pressure at work.replacement of natural gas with hydrogen.

  • This would reduce carbon emissions.
  • It can be used as a chemical feedstock.
  • It could be delivered using the existing gas network.
  • The gas network could be changed from natural gas to hydrogen on a phased basis, just as the change from town to natural gas was organised around fifty years ago.

But it would mean that all gas users would need to change their boilers and other equipment.

Put yourself in the position of Jim Ratcliffe; the major owner and driving force behind INEOS.

INEOS needs feedstocks for chemical plants all over the world and affordable natural gas is one that is very suitable, as it contains two of the major elements needed in hydrocarbons and many useful chemicals; carbon and hydrogen.

If local sources are not available, then liquefied natural gas can be shipped in.

The Hydrogen Economy

It is possible to replace natural gas in many applications and processes with hydrogen.

  • It can be used for heating and cooking.
  • Important chemicals like ammonia can be made from hydrogen.
  • It can be transported in existing natural gas etworks.
  • Hydrogen can also replace diesel in heating and transport applications.

There is also a possibility of measures like carbon taxes being introduced, which using hydrogen would reduce.

There’s more in the Wikipedia entry for Hydrogen economy.

Have Jim Ratcliffe and others done their predicting and decided that the demand for locally sourced natural gas will decline and that the hydrogen economy will take over?

But there will need to be a readily available source of large amounts of hydrogen.

I used to work in a hydrogen factory at Runcorn, which was part of ICI, that created hydrogen and chlorine, by the electrolysis of brine. In some ways, the hydrogen was an unwanted by-product, back in the late 1960s, but similar and more efficient processes can be used to convert electricity into hydrogen.

The latest idea, is to cluster offshore wind farms around gas rigs in the seas around the UK. The electricity produced would be used to electrolyse water to extract the hydrogen, which would then be piped to the shore using existing gas pipelines.

It would be a way of reusing infrastructure associated with gas fields, that have no gas left to extract.

There would be no need to build an expensive electricity cable to the shore.

The Dutch, Danes and the Germans are proposing to build the North Sea Wind Power Hub, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

North Sea Wind Power Hub is a proposed energy island complex to be built in the middle of the North Sea as part of a European system for sustainable electricity. One or more “Power Link” artificial islands will be created at the northeast end of the Dogger Bank, a relatively shallow area in the North Sea, just outside the continental shelf of the United Kingdom and near the point where the borders between the territorial waters of Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark come together. Dutch, German, and Danish electrical grid operators are cooperating in this project to help develop a cluster of offshore wind parks with a capacity of several gigawatts, with interconnections to the North Sea countries. Undersea cables will make international trade in electricity possible.

Later, Wikipedia says that ultimately 110 GW of electricity capacity could be developed.

So could these planned developments create enough hydrogen to replace a sizeable amount of the natural gas used in Western Europe?

I suspect a lot of engineers, company bosses and financiers are working on it.

Conclusion

I have come to the following conclusions.

  • Fracking for hydrocarbons is a technique that could be past its sell-by date.
  • The use of natural gas will decline.
  • INEOS could see hydrogen as a way of reducing their carbon footprint.
  • The heating on all new buildings should be zero carbon, which could include using hydrogen from a zero-carbon source.

There are reasons to think, that electricity from wind-farms creating hydrogen by electrolysis could replace some of our natural gas usage.

 

 

October 15, 2019 - Posted by | World | , , , , ,

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