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 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government Has ‘Double Standards’ For Allowing Drilling In Devon

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Telegraph.

This is the first paragraph.

The Government has been accused of “blatant double standards” for allowing drilling in Cornwall that is able to cause stronger tremors than fracking.

This is at the United Downs Geothermal Project in Devon.

It certainly looks like one rule for geothermal energy and another for fracking.

But then in a lecture in London, I heard a Professor of Engineering from Glasgow University, say that fracking was used in the Highlands of Scotland to obtain clean water.

May 5, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Get Fracking

In Fracked Or Fiction, I talked about my attitude to fracking. These two paragraphs, were my conclusion.

My overwhelming conclusion after the lecture was that before we can embrace fracking in earnest, we must collect a lot more information. For example, we don’t know the background levels ofearthquakes and natural gas seepage in this country. So if say it is thought, that fracking had caused a small earthquake, can we be sure that that isn’t one that we habitually get in this country.

A secondary conclusion, is that my engineering knowledge indicated that there are several very fruitful areas for the development of new technological solutions to mitigate some of the possible problems of fracking.

But things have changed a bit in the over three years, since I attended the lecture at the London Geological Society.

We still get gas from the North Sea and a few smaller fields, but we have to buy in gas from places like Algeria, Russia and Qatar.

I suspect too, that we can always ship liquefied natural gas from the United States.

The Green Party would say that we shouldn’t burn natural gas, but what do we do about?

  1. People do with gas boilers who keep themselves warm in winter?
  2. Businesses that use gas as part of their industrial processes.
  3. In 2015, thirty percent of our electricity was produced from gas.

Renewables such as solar and wind are increasing, but for the forseeable future, we wil still need gas.

But how would you feel, if the Government said, that you must change your boiler for an electric one, as you can’t have any more gas?

We can continue to get our gas from those shining democracies of Algeria, Russia and Qatar or buy it from Trumpland, which would probably not be acceptable to everybody.

There is also the problem, that countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and The Netherlands are also short of gas and are relying increasingly on the Russians.

Surely, the best solution to avoid the cold and loss of employment in industries reliant on gas, is to extract the gas from our own fields, using fracking in a professional and engineeringly-sound manner.

We have form in the extraction of hydrocarbons in this way from land in the UK. The is the first paragraph, from the Wikipedia entry for Wytch Farm.

Wytch Farm is an oil field and processing facility in the Purbeck district of Dorset, England. It is the largest onshore oil field in western Europe. The facility, recently taken over by Perenco was previously operated by BP. It is hidden in a coniferous forest on Wytch Heath on the southern shore of Poole Harbour, two miles (3.2 km) north of Corfe Castle. Oil and natural gas (methane) are both exported by pipeline; liquefied petroleum gas is exported by road tanker.

Is there is an onshore oil-field in a more sensitive environment? Wikipedia says this under Environment.

Most of the field is protected by various conservation laws, including the Jurassic Coast world heritage site, Purbeck Heritage Coast and a number of sites of special scientific interest, areas of outstanding natural beauty and nature reserves (including Studland and Brownsea Island), so the gathering centre and most of the well sites are small and well screened by trees. Directional drilling has also contributed to reducing the impact on the local environment, with extended reach drilling from the Goathorn Peninsula attaining distances in excess of 10 km.

Note the reference to directional drilling, which according to a friend, who was associated with the development of the project, was very much pioneered at Wytch Farm.

Directional drilling is often very much part of the fracking process, prior to the actual hydraulic fracturing. I’m very much of the opinion, that to be a successful fracker, you need to have very good directional drilling capabilities.

I’ve heard it on good authority, that fracking is used in the Highlands of Scotland to extract drinking water. But the F-word is so sensitive, there is nothing about it on the Internet. I did find this web page from a company called Clearwater Drilling Company in Tennessee, which is entitled Hydrofracturing -A procedure designed to increase the amount of water in existing dry and low yield water wells.

Would you prefer to give money to dodgy regimes or build on the Wytch Farm experience and develop the World’s best fracking industry to keep us warm in winter and preserve jobs?

It may seem a stark choice to some, but I believe in the competence of engineers, as demonstrated at Wytch Farm!

Let’s get fracking!

June 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia ‘secretly working with environmentalists to oppose fracking’

The title of this post is not taken from some right-wing scandal sheet, but from this article in The Guardian.

I have an open mind on fracking, but keep these facts in mind.

  • A lot of the bad stories about fracking originate in the United States, where quite frankly a lot of get-rich-quick cowboys got involved in the process, in a manner that would be illegal in the EU and the UK.
  • The largest on-shore oil-field in Western Europe is Wytch Farm, which is close to Corfe Castle. I can’t find a report of any environmental damage around this oil-field, since production started in 1979. This proves to me, that we can extract oil and gas safely on-shore over a long period, which in Wytch Farm’s case is without fracking.
  • We have some of the best engineering Universities in the world and we should use them to develop better ways of extracting, transporting and processing oil and gas. A big project involving several European universities called SHEER, is looking at fracking on a Polish site.
  • Remember that if we need to import gas from outside Europe, we deal with countries with impeccable human rights like Qatar, Russia or the United States.
  • Fracking techniques are used in the Highlands of Scotland to extract water out of rock.
  • We need a lot of gas to keep us warm in winter.

I may have an open mind, but no-one could deny, that if Western Europe obtained the gas it needs from fracking or perhaps by finding a massive conventional gas field onshore in the UK, that the biggest loser would be Russia and President Putin.

 

I

August 7, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Eden Project, Geothermal Energy And Fracking

In Iceland last summer, I saw the benefits of geothermal energy, with one of the most spectacular being the amazing Blue Lagoon.

We don’t have any volcanoes in the UK, but in places like Cornwall and London Bridge station, projects are starting to test the feasibility of using heat from deep in the ground.

According to this article in the Glasgow Herald, the Eden Project is investigating geothewrmal energy. This is an extract.

Given the prominence of Friends of the Earth in the shale gas debate it often comes as a nasty surprise to local anti-fracking groups that most green groups do actually support drilling and fracking for deep geothermal projects. Only yesterday, the famous Eden Project in Cornwall announced such a project.

Today though, I read in The Times, that this £35million project is now under threat from an anti-fracking amendment in a bill in Parliament.

I suspect that the problem is if you wrote down all the science known by Members of Parliament, it would just about fit on a small postage stamp.

I wonder what will happen when politicians find out about the ground source heat pump at London Bridge could use fracking techniques, to enable it to be built properly and run efficiently.

February 2, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Fracked Or Fiction

I went to the London Geological Society today to see a lecture called.

Fracked or fiction: so what are the risks associated with shale gas exploitation?

The lecture is described here on their web site.

They will put up a video in two or three weeks, which you can watch to make your own mind up.

My overwhelming conclusion after the lecture was that before we can embrace fracking in earnest, we must collect a lot more information. For example, we don’t know the background levels ofearthquakes and natural gas seepage in this country. So if say it is thought, that fracking had caused a small earthquake, can we be sure that that isn’t one that we habitually get in this country.

A secondary conclusion, is that my engineering knowledge indicated that there are several very fruitful areas for the development of new technological solutions to mitigate some of the possible problems of fracking.

Stopping fracking is probably an easy task for opponents, as it can be portrayed as dangerous in several ways, that appeal to the sensationalist media.  And of course the benefits of low gas prices aren’t so obvious, until they actually happen.

You can compare fracking with that other nimby-opposed project; HS2. This can be opposed in terms of noise, vibration and construction and visual disturbance cost, but the benefits of better and faster journeys is easier to understand by the man on the Birmingham train.

April 16, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Should We Nuke Russia?

The title of this post is not a serious question in the way you think it is.

I was thinking about how we control Russia in its expansion into Ukraine and wondered how much gas we buy from the country. Google found me this article on the Forbes web site. It has the title of Nukes Best Option Against Russian Gas. It however did give some interesting facts about Russia and its gas, particularly with respect to the sale of the gas. The article contained the answer that I wanted in this sentence.

Russia gets about €300 billion a year (US$417 billion/yr) from fuel exports to Europe, almost 20% of its GDP

So it looks like that by its policies and purchases, the EU is strongly supporting Russia.  The article also contained these paragraphs.

It is unfortunate that Germany closed down almost half of their nuclear plants in the wake of Fukushima, 8 out of 17. Nukes really come in handy during this kind of energy conflict. It would behoove Germany to rethink that decision and to postpone their plans to shut down the remaining nuclear plants over the next ten years, to give them more leverage to address the Russian aggression as they continue transitioning to alternatives.

Until recently, Germany’s 17 nuclear plants produced power exceeding the energy produced by all of the Russian gas entering Germany. With eight shut down, the amount of nuclear energy produced still offsets much of that produced by Russian gas. If Germany insists on prematurely shutting the rest of its nuclear fleet, then the amount of gas needing to be imported into the country will double, even with projected increases in renewables.

This explains the title of the article.

The writer has a point. Whether we like it or not, Europe and especially Germany is playing the Russian’s game, by buying more gas and giving Putin the funds to be aggressive.

The sooner we stop buying gas from Russia the better. We need to start fracking and build more nuclear power stations.

April 15, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Using The Power Of Water

We’ve seen enough rain this winter and it has caused a lot of damage at places like Dawlish. This story from the BBC, shows how to make working safe at Dawlish, the Devon Fire Brigade is using water to bring down an unsafe landslip. Here’s the first bit.

Fire crews are pumping sea water on to the cliff at Dawlish to bring down 350,000 tonnes of potentially unstable rock and soil in a controlled landslip.

Network Rail called in firefighters to prevent a “catastrophic” collapse that could have posed a risk to workers repairing the main Devon railway line.

What I find interesting, is that lots of people are against hydraulic fracking or fracking, which on a grand and more open scale, Network Rail are doing at Dawlish.

 

 

March 15, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Winning Over The Anti-Frackers

Edmund Marshall is a retired MP.  In a letter to the Times today, he talks of his part in the Zetland County Council Act 1973 and the effect of the Act, on the Shetland Islands. This is talked about here on the Scottish Government web site, with this paragraph being the most relevant.

Closer to home, we have an example of the way in which one local community – Shetland – was able to accrue a legacy for its future on the back of oil and gas exploration. Shetland Islands Council showed foresight in securing via, primarily, the Zetland County Council Act 1974 a lasting revenue stream for the benefit of the islands from the development of the Sullom Voe terminal. The result of this Act and subsequent contractual negotiations is that Shetland today has a lasting legacy of around £216m. 7 This figure is over and above the funds contained in the Shetland Reserve Fund, administered by Shetland Islands Council.

30. The Shetland Charitable Trust, established in 1974 to manage the income stream accrued to Shetland, today provides funding to a number of charitable organisations and projects where there is a clear benefit to the Shetland community. Over the years, the Trust has made a contribution to creating a modern, positive and healthy community in Shetland. Shetland Charitable Trust’s financial strength has also given it the power to establish joint venture projects to move into the renewable energy generation market.

Dr. Marshall finishes his letter, by saying that fracking could be dealt with by similar provisions.

It would lead to some rather heated arguments in some councils, as to whether to accept the fracker’s shilling. It is a choice about whether you want lower Council Tax and new community facilities, or fracking.

I very doubt that a similar Act will happen in the greater UK, as payments like this really get the Treasury’s ire.  I’m surprised that they allowed the Shetlands to get this independent finance! Perhaps none of the Treasury’s mandarins had been north of Watford and Shetlands meant Rockall to them.

January 11, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Are Wind Turbines Not What They’re Cracked Up To Be?

The news this morning that RWE Innogy are not going ahead with the Atlantic Array of 240 wind turbines is to some surprising.

The developers cite engineering difficulties and that it is not the right time for the project, although others are saying that there are financial problems with the project.

If we are going to have wind turbines, which I’ll admit, I think are an eyesore in the British landscape, then offshore is probably the best place for them.

I think that this array might well be built at some time, but only after new and better technology has arrived.

It would be wrong to increase the subsidy for the project to get it built.

If subsidies go anywhere they should go into energy research.

1. We should try to find better ways of getting the gas out that is there, that would otherwise use crude fracking techniques.

2. Our buildings are notoriously badly insulated and research should be directed to find better ways of cutting energy use.

3. Research could also be directed towards better ways of generating heat and power, to widen some of the techniques used at places like the Bunhill Energy Centre.

Just using subsidies to put up wind turbines, is like giving an alcoholic or drug addict, money to fund their habit. It might give some a good feeling, but it does nothing for the overall good of society.

 

November 26, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment