Fracking and the Taranaki Regional Council

Fracking is the hydraulic fracturing of geological formations to release hydrocarbons. It has some very serious potential environmental impacts, of which groundwater contamination is the lead problem. This is why there is a moratorium on fracking in many places around the world at the moment, including NSW, Quebec, parts of USA, and France.

Groundwater contamination occurs because the hydraulic fluid used to fracture the rock contains toxic chemicals that can find their way into aquifers; and also because the mobilisation of hydrocarbons can result in the mobilisation of various toxic naturally occuring chemicals that would otherwise be held in place.

Generally the target rock is deeper than the aquifers and hence the miners drill down through the aquifer to get to the rocks that are the fracking target.

The fracking chemicals can get into groundwater if the casing around the fracking bore leaks, or if the fracking fluid comes back up the outside of the casing, or if the fracking itself results in a connection between the target rock and the aquifer.

In NZ the lead place for fracking is Taranaki, and key environmental regulator is the Taranaki Regional Council. You would think the regional council would be concerned about the possiblity of contamination of their aquifers.

My colleague Catherine Delahunty wrote to the TRC asking some questions on this issue and the answer was startling:

Catherine Delahunty: “Has there ever been any leakage of fracking fluid or other drilling fluid into Taranaki aquifers?”

BG Chamberlain, CEO of TRC: “Injection wells are cased through the aquifers so there can be no discharges of fracking fluids to them.” [emphasis added]

So the so-called environmental regulator decided a priori that there cannot be contamination of aquifers by fracking fluid.

No wonder TRC didn’t require the drilling companies to apply for resource consent for fracking – they had already decided that there is no risk. Under public pressure TRC are now saying that they will require resource consent but given their attitude that there “can be no discharges” of fracking fluid to aquifers I can’t imagine these consents will be arduous.

We need a morotorium on fracking until we understand the risks and we need a national environmental regulator to set rules and enforce them as the TRC are manifestly not up to it.

A full copy of the Taranaki Regional Council’s OIA response on fracking is now online.

66 thoughts on “Fracking and the Taranaki Regional Council

  1. So the answer to Catherine’s question is clearly “No”. Would there have been any answer the TRC could have given that wouldn’t have you calling for a morotorium?

    If they can get fracking fluid into aquifers vioa casing leaks as you suggest, its the same potential to get hydrocarbons into the aquifers. There are a lot more wells drilled conventionally than fracked ones, with no contamination of aquifers. Fracking does not exacerbate the risk. So they have what, 50? years of experience in New Zealand with no problems, and you want a moratorium?

  2. Spam there is a big difference between conventional extraction and fracking. In fracking the pipe has to be massively pressurized to do the fracturing which makes leakage much more likely than when the hydrocarbons come out of their own accord under lower pressure. And if the well is being pumped then there is negative pressure in the pipe.

    Of course there are occasions when the pipe is massively pressurized from the hydrocarbons aka Deepwater Horizon explosion and you get leaks then as well.

    As we desperately search for more hydrocarbons we are resorting to more extreme forms of extraction with higher risks.

  3. Spam, there is also an issue of lost methane, natural gas which escapes because the fracking does not capture all the gas being released… it is an area of the earth that is cracked and the loss of gas has been estimated at between 8 and 15%. This is lost money but the technology isn’t there to capture 100%… and that lost fraction makes a mockery of our attempts to limit our agricultural methane release. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Fracking for a source of fuel makes the fuel obtained, even the comparatively clean natural gas, as dirty as lignite coal.

    Overall, fracking the planet is a BAADDDD idea. We are getting increasingly desperate in our search for burnable hydrocarbons, and they stuff we are getting is getting more and more expensive to get. We ARE going to have to stop. The only question is whether we stop now when it is relatively easy and we have some left, or when we have squeezed the blood from the last stone and condemned every human on the planet to a VASTLY reduced standard of living. Let the resource wars begin!

    I suggest that of the two choices, cutting back now, voluntarily slowing our pursuit of ever higher consumption, is the better one. Stop while there is still some resource available to accomplish the changes.

    BJ

  4. One can also consider the usage of the word frack in the show “Battlestar Galactica” where the meaning seems a prescient description of the actual effects.

    BJ

  5. I have requested that the issue of fraccing be discussed at tomorrows Southland Regional Council meeting and have a question on the agenda around consents required. There are plans to employ the method in Western Southland in the near future and questions are being asked through the Southland Times by Southlanders very concerned about this. Your post is both timely and useful Russel. I will post the results of tomorrow’s discussions here. Thanks for doing this ‘groundwork’.
    Robert

  6. http://robertguyton.blogspot.com/2011/08/another-fracking-letter.html

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011
    Another fracking letter
    From today’s Southland Times:

    Gas drilling danger

    The “potentially huge” resource that lies under the Waiau basin includes both shale gas and coal seam gas.
    The latter is the same industry that has contaminated groundwater, caused ill health in communities and threatens to destroy farmers’ livelihood and Australia’s long term food and water security.
    In New South Wales, a moratorium is being imposed while a parliamentary inquiry involving multiple stakeholders assesses the environmental, social and economic impacts of coal-seam gas.
    Fracking is dangerous.
    Southlanders should demand full disclosure of information from the council and companies, re their exploration plans, fracking chemicals and disposal of produced water and other drilling wastes.
    And how exactly would companies make right contaminated water?

    CATHERINE CHEUNG
    Okato, Taranaki

  7. Fracking is just the latest green protest fashion. It is not new technology, it is not suddenly more threatening. It’s just a new word the Greens have learnt and enjoy chucking around.

  8. Sheesh, I don’t think we’ll see a more stupid argument today for ignoring a serious environmental problem than that which insider has just graced us with.

  9. What ‘serious environmental problem’ are you talking about valis? Where has fracking caused an issue in NZ that is specific to the technology? Where is it being proposed that it will likely cause these serious environmental problems? How about some facts rather than stories to scare your children.

    For Russel to say “there is a big difference between conventional extraction and fracking” ignores the reality that fracking IS conventional extraction.

  10. Fracking has become an issue here because the practice seems about to increase just when negative reports of overseas experience are starting to mount. That it has been banned in several jurisdictions with many problems in others is a good reason to consider what is happening here. It would be good to deal with an environmental problem before gets out of hand for a change.

  11. “What ‘serious environmental problem’ are you talking about”

    We don’t know because the regional council, which ought to be looking for such problems, prefers to pretend it can’t happen. What we do know is that overseas, fracking has been associated with widespread groundwater contamination. Which suggests we should be keeping a close watch on it, not saying “We’re not going to monitor this until the problem becomes too big to avoid noticing”.

  12. @ valis

    What is this problem you want to deal with before it gets out of hand? Fracking has been used in over a million wells around the world. I’d be surprised if any NZ wells aren’t already using the technique.

    I loved these quotes the science media centre got from Dr Rob Jeffrey, Research Programme Leader, Petroleum engineering CSIRO:

    “Fracturing is being confused with drilling, which shows the level of understanding of some critics….In the broader scheme of oil and gas exploration, much of the scrutiny is moving to drilling and casing as issues raised about hydraulic fracturing have been shown to not be that severe.”

    from what I see, the issues in the US are to do with tight shale and coal gas. This is afaik not really on the agenda in NZ (there are always people with big ideas touting for investors but experience tells us most of them are not real). And the real issue is well casing integrity rather than the fracking process, and that might be to do with the rock layers they are drilling through, not fracking per se.

    as for widespread problems…what, half a dozen out of a million wells. Funny maths you have

  13. For Russel to say “there is a big difference between conventional extraction and fracking” ignores the reality that fracking IS conventional extraction.

    Now you are simply lying. You either already know that fracking is nothing like conventional drilling and extraction or you are too stupid to operate a computer. Since you posted here we know the latter is not true, so you know better than what you just claimed.

  14. “half a dozen out of a million wells. Funny maths you have”

    Where do you get these figures? And who is Jeffrey talking about who is confusing fracking and drilling? Do they actually exist?

  15. @ bj

    don’t be such an abusive prick, it only demeans you, especially in a post showing your ignorance. Fracking is a long established and widely utilised oil and gas production technique. Do your some research; it’s not hard. Both below are from highly critical articles of the process

    “Hydraulic fracturing – also known as ‘fracking’ – is a process used in the vast majority of natural gas wells in the US” – Theecologist.org

    “In fact, more than 90 percent of natural-gas wells today use fracking.” Vanity Fair

    Sounds pretty effing conventional to me, unless you want to invent a new meaning.

  16. “Fracking” depends where you do it. Two km down hole in a well is not going to affect anything on the surface.

    Using it in shales and other surface formations has caused major problems overseas.

    You need to look at how and where it is being done.

  17. So it was the media Jeffrey was saying doesn’t know the difference between fracking and drilling? And where does your figure of six wells having problems come from?

  18. “Hydraulic fracturing – also known as ‘fracking’ – is a process used in the vast majority of natural gas wells in the US” – Theecologist.org

    “In fact, more than 90 percent of natural-gas wells today use fracking.” Vanity Fair

    Sounds pretty effing conventional to me, unless you want to invent a new meaning.

    So what? the Yanks also see ripping the tops off mountains as “standard” coal mining practice as well.

    Your Yank yard stick is flawed in the extreme.

  19. Unfortunately Insider, the reason most of the wells in the US are using “fracking” is because they have to drill a hell of a lot of wells to get the gas out of the field they ARE fracking, and the conventional (drill a hole and out it comes) gas is largely exhausted. So the MAJORITY of wells need to be the “fracking” variety.

    THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT CONVENTIONAL.

    Since I know better than to apply the US statistics blindly OR to define the new technique as conventional I don’t make the mistake you make. I see however, that you are worthy of all the abuse I can heap on you.

    BJ

  20. The only reason fracking is useful economically is the rising price of the hydrocarbons that result. That rising price is making deep water drilling and fracking look feasible, but in terms of EROEI it sucks.

    BJ

  21. Today’s council meeting was very interesting indeed, especially where hydraulic fracturing was discussed.The staff had done a lot of research in order to present a fairly complete picture of the process and the councils preparedness for any proposals to frack that might come in. None have been proposed as yet through the regular channels. I was given a copy of ‘Impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction on the environment and human health (Directorate-General for Internal Policies Policy Department Economic and Scientific Policy A – European parliament) an 89 page document that I’m presently digesting (insider – this document makes your objections sound a bit lame I have to say). Council staff involved in consenting etc. are reading this also, along with other sources and have been ‘looking closely’ at the Taranaki Regional Council’s activities. It would be fair to say that interest in the possibilities for Southland has been piqued. In essence, we hold that any fracking activity would have to be consented as it is not a permitted activity. As yet, no applications have been received so this is theoretical. There are a great many people down here in Southland becoming more alert as days go by, to the possible/likely problems that come with gas extraction from rock, and amongst those watching are the staff and councillors of Environment Southland. I welcome any new information on the subject and referrences to further reading. I recommend the title at the top of my post and it can be downloaded though it’s quite a big file to print off. Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has publically expressed his concern over the process of fracking, as has Frana Cardno. Mayor of Southland.

  22. Insider

    Where has fracking caused an issue in NZ that is specific to the technology?

    Well in Taranaki of course. The fact that the consent process is non-notified, frackers often breach their already easy to meet requirements and that there is never any prosecution for those breaches are just a few issues you seem to be uniformed about.

    People need to be aware that the Taranaki region has some of the most pristine aquifer water in the world. It’s a major resource that even one leaking frack well could destroy forever.

    Where is this “widespread groundwater contamination”?

    So you want specifics eh! I suppose you believe nobody will bother to research the environmental damage caused in New Zealand by fracking?

    Table 3 on page 15 of this report (PDF) shows the amount of non-compliance for the Inglewood land farm. As well as ground water contamination, the operators spread their fracking sludge that contains many toxic materials directly onto the land.

    Amongst other substances, Hydrocarbons were tested for and shown to be six times over the limit or 26,742 mg/kg above the 4558 mg/kg limit outlined in the consent. As previously mentioned, there was no fine, the only response by the Taranaki District council was to reduce testing and inspections.

    This is but one of the many breaches of resource consents that already place inadequate restrictions on dangerous substances used in the fracking process. No further measures were undertaken to ensure compliance.

    Your argument that the process is widely used in other countries and therefore should be accepted in New Zealand as safe insider, is equally stupid!

  23. @bj

    Hydraulic fracking is not a ‘new’ technique. It was first used in quarrying, then used in o&g more than 60 years ago. Explosive oil well fracking goes back 150 years. The numbers of wells using this technique and the timeline it’s been done over would show anyone but the deliberately obtuse that this is a standard production process. Its not used every time but it is used a lot. And onshore it will be used a lot more in future. The reasons they do it are irrelevant, even though I agree with you on them.

    @Robert ive read the eu report. Much of it relates to wider policy issues about shale gas and sustainability, which is probably of interest to you, and lays out a bunch of risks from an EU context. Im more interested in the direct risk issues and it tends to suggest that most failures are management issues and solvable through regulation and oversight, not inherent in the technique. You have to ask : what’s new here? Most of the issues appear to me to be no different than those associated with non frack wells – contamination, waste, spills and emissions are successfully managed in this industry all the time. What do you see are the risks and the risk mechanisms you are concerned about? I’m surprised the council is wasting it’s time on this given you’ve got no plans for it in your area.

    I suggest you read the brown university study on well contamination in Pennsylvania- you may focus on the contamination but if you read it carefully you’ll see that there is clearly no contamination from the actual fracking process, it appears to be poor well construction near the surface.

  24. @ Todd

    You seem to have failed to read the conclusions of the report which classed it as a good to high performer in compliance and environmental impact. Thats why the inspections were reduced – the operator has shown he is to be trusted. Helps if you read to the end of documents even if it makes your lips sore.

  25. If the casing fails you will get leakage into the ground water end of story that the council decided to ignore this is absurd.

    However don’t focus on the leaking into the ground water as its not the major problem with fracking.

    The major problem with fracking is the waste produced by the process. You will need special treatment facilities to deal with the waste products.

    These waste products CAN BE radioactive. If the shale contains radioactive elements then these can and do dissolve into your waste water and they will need to be a handled with extreme care during disposal. The only method that works is long term storage underground. This is what they do in Texas, however I doubt that would work in NZ.

    Not all waste water will contain radioactive material it depends on the Shale. The Marcellus Shale in PA and NY state contains Radium 235 for example.

    Again I doubt if the Taranaki council has bothered to check its Shale deposits.

    Again please don’t focus on the ground water issue its highly localised where as the waste products has the potential to affect the whole of NZ.

  26. The TDC operates much like the EPA, who was recently found to have tried to hide thousands of fracking accidents in the US. Such organizations are there to protect the industry, not the environment or the people who become sick and die from fracking pollution.

    The single breach I have highlighted is not an isolated incident, breaches of consents are a regular occurrence, which makes your claim insider that the operators can be trusted incorrect. We cannot trust the operator or those who are meant to ensure safety.

    PS My name is not Todd.

  27. I agree with turnip about the waste stream. Much of the fear over aquifer contamination is driven by superstition and ignorance of geology. Many of the US shales are thousands of feet below water deposits. Yet we have examples of aquifers overlying each other in Canterbury which don’t intermingle and people happily drill bores through them. if you have to have something to worry about, worry more about the casing process through an aquifer and leak monitoring not what’s happening a km below.

    As for the radiation issue, it’s well known that drilling equipment can become mildly radioactive in oil fields. What I don’t understand is why the waste is any more radioactive than the product being drawn from the same location.

  28. WHere is the evidence breaches of consents are a regular occurrence? TDC visited the site regualarly – something like 30 times. to say breaches are a regualr event overstates the case on my reading of the report. Not all breaches are end of the world stuff.

  29. Insider

    At a guess, the product is a hydrocarbon, light elements. The waste stream contains heavier metals and elements and so can be more radioactive.

    Overall, the process has 3 negatives, one that is unanswerable with current technology.

    1. It releases waste Methane into the air.
    2. It CAN cause groundwater contamination (this is addressable and subject to consents).
    3. It creates waste products which are hazardous and must be stored and/or treated to remove their toxicity. ( this is addressable and subject to consents ).

    It is and remains a bad idea.

  30. Insider.

    I agree there are many different uses of “fracking”. Some almost certainly harmful, some not.

    “contamination, waste, spills and emissions are successfully managed in this industry all the time”.

    I do not agree with you there.

    Should change it to: Publicity about “contamination, waste, spills and emissions are successfully managed in this industry all the time”.

    In oil exploration these issues are swept under the carpet or ignored by officials who are, often understandably, more interested in the economic and employment issues, (Or in some countries the size of the bribe).

    Maui B had a potentially serious flow line failure while testing the wells. Just to mention one incident here. They are almost always played down or officially ignored.

    Exxons reaction to the Valdez was to take the name Exxon of all their ships and put all exploration and shipping under secondary holding companies.

    My experience with MNZ and other NZ regulators do not fill me with any confidence. Safety first, after cost. Local councils do not have the expertise and knowledge to judge oil company applications.

  31. Insider

    Where is the evidence breaches of consents are a regular occurrence?

    Why don’t you go have a search on the TDC website insider before you keep showing us how badly informed you are on this subject. Before you were arguing that there were no breaches. You were wrong! Now you argue that breaches do not occur regularly, again you are wrong!

    Not all breaches are end of the world stuff.

    You really have a strange thought process insider. Destroying one of the worlds purest water sources and poisoning many peoples water supplies pretty much forever is pretty bad… No amount of money is worth it.

  32. Insider – you make some good points, though you sound like an industry apologist, hence, I suppose, the reactions from others here.
    I’ll look to the Brown University study, if I can find it.
    Where you state:

    “management issues and solvable through regulation and oversight, not inherent in the technique.” I quake a little, being in the ‘business’ of regulating and overseeing and knowing full-well (‘scuse pun) that management issues/handling errors etc. are part and parcel and when the risks are as high as the ruination of an aquifer etc. I don’t casually brush off the risks as you seem willing to do.
    Waiting for an accident here in NZ before tightening up the process isn’t my idea of good resource management.
    Doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that we have to take a very good look at the reality of the situation and plan for potential trouble. I’m far from convinced that this is a worthwhile exercise on a whole lot of levels, as described by bjchip et al.

  33. @ Kerry

    I should have said “the risk of contamination etc”, ie there are lots of mechanical and behaviour mechanisms you can put in place to mitigate risk. That’s how we manage to run process and extractive and hazchem industries in NZ without contaminating and killing every day.

    Oh and to say Exxon’s reaction to Valdez was to change the name of their ships is a bit facile. They went from one of the worst in safety to the best. They are not ‘popular’ but compare their performance to say BP – the light greenie favourite because they say the ‘right’ things – over time and it is clear who walks the talk. You’d hope Deepwater Horizon will have the same effect on BP.

    @ robert

    Wow I ‘sound’ like an industry apologist…big crime. Doesn;t make me wrong though :-) You sound like a future fearing, rabbit in the headlights luddite, but I won’t hold it against you :-)

    Kerry makes a good point i think you particularly need to consider. “Local councils do not have the expertise and knowledge to judge oil company applications.” I think councils like any poltical organisation also can overreact to risk through good intent but lack of rigour and expertise, and not understanding mechanisms. How many of your officers have practical experience in these issues? You are asking an awful lot of people who would normally deal with say drains and farm run off to provide anything more than very general advice on a highly complex subject – and that’s not a criticism of them. So how good can your decision making be?

    Sorry it was Duke not Brown University – http://www.pnas.org/content/108/20/8172.full

    @ bj

    Why do you think the methane can’t be managed? One of the policy issues the EU is considering is the relative emissions. Coal has double the GHGs. It might be the least worst option, plus there is the whole energy security issue. Robert’s going to have fun choosing between coal to liquids or shale gas… :-)

  34. Ah, so it’s smiley-faces-masking-insults time eh! What fun!
    I wasn’t using “industry apologist’ as a pejorative term, though you’ve taken it that way. Such people exist don’t they? Are you one? You sound like you are (don’t take offence again for goodness sake!). Your ‘luddite rabbit transfixed by a brighter future’ is designed to insult but I choose not to be irked – a little disappointed though. You remind me very much of Blue Peter, though he seems to have scarpered long ago.
    Shale gas .v. lignite-to-diesel (I don’t call lignite ‘coal’, though if you’re on the inside of the industry I’m sure you could correct me. Lignite seems more an dense peat product, brown and wet.) I wasn’t aware it was a choice of one or the other. You’d plump for both probably (reading between your lines) but I have reservations. I’m studying up on both resources, as are the councillors at ES. Making decisions on resources is what we are trained to do and I don’t see why we can’t make very good decisions based on information available. You seem to feel that you can. Something we endeavour to do is keep an open mind on issues we are due to adjudicate upon. Industry representatives, whilst knowledgeable, might struggle to retain their objectivity. What do you think, you dirty stinking hydrocarbon lover :-)

  35. @ robert

    I suppose I am an apologist in that I am arguing their side with you, but I’m doing it for love not money. I am open to offers though…thick brown envelopes containing large denominations preferred. Yes I’m talking to you Straterra and PEPANZ…

    you’re a politician and you have to make some judgement calls. I wish more took the time you are taking. We all have biases. My concern is that much real evidence is hidden by the hype you can find quickly on google. I wouldn’t be rushing to make definitive policy on a process that is not well known in your area at this stage. Making it notifiable seems a reasonable place holder. Look at the detail when the detailed applications come through.

    Personally I think the lignite thing is daft. I think it’s more a political play than a real one – but have no real basis for that apart from thinking that coal/lignite to liquids has primarily been done by pariah states or in times of war in response to massive supply challenges. We don’t have that so why push a hugely expensive process in the face of cheaper alternatives? But as long as it’s someone else’s money being risked I don’t really care. You can worry about the local environmental issue.

  36. @ Todd

    it;s just a name. I think I;ve used it online for maybe 15 years -check the NZ Gen NZPols archives. I wouldn’t get too hung up on it if I were you.

    And what is this report trying to tell me and why?

  37. insider – “I think it’s more a political play than a real one”
    We’re curiously aligned in our thinking.
    “I wouldn’t be rushing to make definitive policy on a process that is not well known in your area at this stage.”
    We’re not.
    “You can worry about the local environmental issue.”
    I will. If the ‘issue’ is a gas of the greenhouse sort, ‘local’ doesn’t adequately describe it though, does it.
    Appreciate your contribution.

  38. @robert

    by political I mean I can’t see a commercial justification, so to me something else must be going on, which I think is the wider resource development agenda. But it’s not my concern if they want to play with their own money that way and not a consent issue as such.

    you’re not allowed to consider GHGs effects are you? Aren’t they covered by national policy?

  39. Insider. It was actually unfair that Deepwater horizon happened to BP. In my experience they have always been the best of the oil Companies as far as environmental and safety compliance. Deepwater horizon was actually a US company, Transocean, contracted to BP.

    AND Exxon did not do anything to really address tanker safety issues after the Valdez. They just subcontracted the shipping. So they could cost cut without the name Exxon appearing on any future accidents.

  40. There is an easy way of making sure that industrial accidents or pollution does not happen. Would work for GMO’s also. Make the directors and Managers of any company personally and criminally liable for any third party damage resulting from commercial activities.

    In other words. You can drill, but if anything goes wrong, you wear it.

    Don’t tell me it cannot be done. Sea Captains are already kept to that level of responsibility.

  41. insider GHG’s are a moot point, being mooted right now. So it’s ‘perhaps’. The Denniston Plateaux will provide us with a case study…and I doubt it’ll be ‘their’ money that SE plays with. It’ll be ‘ours’ (Kiwisaver mums and dads) or Chinese coin.

  42. @ Kerry

    It’s pretty lame to say it was ‘unfair’ for it to happen to BP. Where does fairness come into it? ANd BP were an integral part of the drilling programme. It was their well. Hallibuton and Transocean were integral too. Remember this rig had safely done a deeper well for Exxon nearby only a few months before.

    I don’t want to beat up on BP, but their reputation in the US was shocking before this, particularly in refining. Their death rate was very high and one report said they had nearly 800 Osh violations in their businesses and exxon had 1. How many shipping incidents had since Valdez. If not many, then maybe they did the right thing – giving shipping over to specialist shippers.

  43. Why do you think the methane can’t be managed? One of the policy issues the EU is considering is the relative emissions. Coal has double the GHGs.

    The methane can’t be managed with current technology. Perhaps a big plastic bag over the entire area being fracked to capture the lost methane? It is a diffuse and entropy laden issue of gas, not a problem with the product that IS recovered, but with what is wasted.

    That waste pushes the GHG equivalence of the product from fracked fields up to the same level as brown coal, the dirtiest conventional hydrocarbon available.

    It is the nature of the wasted gas that it is already diffuse when it makes its way into the atmosphere, and it is not easy to see how this result is to be avoided. I point out though, that I do specify “current technology” and as the price of the gas goes higher as it will, the efforts made by the various entities trying to retrieve product will redouble, as it IS waste and it IS lost money as far as they are concerned.

    It isn’t however, a really tractable problem. A lot like the AGW problem itself.

    BJ

  44. @ bj

    Most of the US fields are thousands of feet down. What;s the mechanism through which methane is lost from the reservoirs? I thought the GHG issue was more about the intensity of the production process – lots of wells and energy, bit like tar sands, rather than gas loss to the environment.

  45. Around 20% of frack wells in the US leak gas. Do you even know what hydrolic fracturing is? You make statements as though you’re educated on the topic insider, and then ask a question that clearly shows you’re completely ignorant. Piss off and do some proper research instead of wasting peoples time reading your rubbish comments. Damn industry troll… even photonz1 wasn’t so annoying.

  46. My understanding is that GHG ‘issue’ (love that word, as meaningful as ‘solution’) is a broad-scale, generalized ‘leakage’. When you use explosives to fracture rock, all sorts of egress is potentialized. Cracked rock leaks all over the show, not just back into the hole you drilled. Does this not make sense to you insider?
    Have you ever tried to find a leak in a roof?

  47. @Robert
    absolutely understand what you are saying and how that might be an issue in shallow deposits like coal seams, but I can’t understand the mechanism that would cause large volumes of previously tight gas to independently migrate through thousands of feet of multiple strata through the creation of cracks a few meters long.

  48. Insider. You are talking bullocks. BP reported their problems, Exxon swept them under the rug.
    I do not think you know any more about drilling than you know about Teaching.
    Another one of NACT’s paid “pop up trolls”??.

  49. @ Kerry

    Where is your evidence for that rather bizarre assertion? Do you realise how childish that sounds? Sounds like you want to desperately believe it to be so. Have yo ever looked at the baker report which bp commissioned and which said they had serious failings in their safety culture after 15 workers were killed at texas city? exxon obviously managed to sweep all their dead bodies under the carpet…pathetic

  50. Hmmm..bjchip, I’m going to call on your expertise here..
    “Spam, there is also an issue of lost methane, natural gas which escapes because the fracking does not capture all the gas being released… it is an area of the earth that is cracked and the loss of gas has been estimated at between 8 and 15%. This is lost money but the technology isn’t there to capture 100%… and that lost fraction makes a mockery of our attempts to limit our agricultural methane release. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Fracking for a source of fuel makes the fuel obtained, even the comparatively clean natural gas, as dirty as lignite coal. ”

    Can you back up your/my claims? :-)

  51. Insider. There is no such thing “as only 1 incident”.
    Exxon was very obviously under reporting.
    You said it yourself just above. BP saw they had a problem and put time and money into addressing it.

  52. @ Robert

    EPA did a study putting whole of life fugitive emissions from gas production at sbout 2% well to consumer. Cornell uni did a later study saying fracked tight gas was higher than traditional production up to 30 to 100% over the whole chain. But there was a big upper to lower margin – normal gas 1.7 to 6% losses and tight shale gas 3.6 to 7.9%

    @ Kerry that is the most hilarious circular logic. Yeah they put the time and money in after 15 died in one incident but did nothing about the previous incidents .

  53. Most of the US fields are thousands of feet down. What;s the mechanism through which methane is lost from the reservoirs?

    Apparently in the deep fields it comes up around the well casings, where the hole is drilled… which is why I reckon that it MAY get captured when the price gets high enough. The shallow fields are the ones I reckon to be impossible. The deeper ones are the older…. the Marcellus formation that the USA is counting on, is apparently subject to vertical fractures.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcellus_Formation

    One has to question the wisdom of releasing carbon that has been sequestered for 400 million years, when we do not yet know how to sequester the damned stuff ourselves.

    My real point however, is that the ever increasing cost of doing this, and the emission of Greenhouse gas that results, accomplishes absolutely nothing except to PUT OFF the day when renewables absolutely HAVE to be used because there’s nothing left, and MAKES WORSE the difficulty of making a transition to renewables, as the resources to make the transition will be far more difficult to come by, and MAKES WORSE the difficulty of reducing our Greenhouse Gas emissions. Fracking is and remains, a bad idea.

    You may be keen to burn this stuff, I am not. The consequences for my children’s children are potentially far FAR too serious… and the conduct of the massive experiment with the earth’s atmosphere, with no control whatsoever, is far too stupid.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACHLayfA6_4&feature=youtu.be

    (even though I don’t hold with his worst fears)

    Natural gas is better than coal, and replacing coal with natural gas is an intermediate goal I seek, but the incidental release of gas makes THIS process a problem. The groundwater issues are manageable at some expense.

    The cost has to be reckoned. We have to work out how to modify both our sources of energy and our society, to tailor our uses to the energy availability (peak tidal flow is a regular feature in many places), solar depends on it being daytime, wind is irregular but potent). We could do satellite solar power and have energy unlimited by terrestrial concerns anywhere on the planet.

    We aren’t doing it. We aren’t doing ANY of it. The energy companies have powerful lobbies to resist doing it. There are other powerful lobbies to deny any need to do it. The ignoranti have the upper hand at the moment, ignorant of the far larger hand of Mother Nature, raised above them and against them. When it descends it will swat us all.

  54. I am still looking for the older article that cited the larger loss, but as it was more than 3 years ago I am satisfying myself with this. I remember it was translated from German and was in PDF form, but I am not finding it fast and I have to go to work.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=industry-challenges-study-natural-gas-excessively-adds-greenhouse-effect

    The industry doesn’t like it. The problem is that it looks to be the real deal… and the amount of “fugitive emissions” during the life of the well, is enough to make a problem.

    Begs the question:
    One that does not exist for the more conventional product?

    respectfully
    BJ

  55. Insider. You wouldn’t know circular logic if it bit your arse.
    Your knowledge of English grammar is about as good as your knowledge of Teaching and oil exploration.

    One thing that really annoys me on blogs are people who come and pontificate about subjects they have no knowledge of beyound reading the paper, or maybe, a few articles, as if they really are, an insider.

    But, what would I know. I have only worked on rigs, AHTS and Tankers.

  56. http://whoar.co.nz/2011/7-ways-oil-and-gas-companies-are-trying-to-buy-positive-public-sentiment-for-fracking-a-dangerous-technology-thats-much-like-setting-off-a-giant-pipe-bomb-four-or-five-miles-underground/

    “…Their high-dollar campaign to put a happy face on this risky practice is designed to challenge the growing movement to ban fracking that’s heating up across the country.

    Sometimes reality is stranger than science fiction.

    That’s the case with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking –

    – a dangerous technology that’s much like setting off a giant pipe bomb four or five miles underground.

    Millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand are injected deep into shale rock formations at high pressures – to break open the rock and release the gas.

    The promoters say its safe.

    Or that’s what the oil and gas industry would have you think, anyway.

    But behind the scenes, the industry is fighting tooth and nail to keep fracking unregulated –

    – and its claims of safety, economic prosperity and energy security unquestioned.

    Their high-dollar campaign to put a happy face on this risky practice is designed to challenge the growing movement to ban fracking that’s heating up across the country:…

    … people are saying no to this risky technology that, if pursued, will negatively impact our health, water, and economy.

    Here are some of the ways the oil and gas industry is attempting to “buy” public sentiment and a positive policy environment for its newest darling —

    – shale gas fracking:…”

    (cont..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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