Fracking earthquakes

A new report was released this week by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change which confirmed that two earthquakes in the Blackpool area were caused by fracking. Along with a US Geological Survey report out last week it shows scientifically there is a link between fracking and human-induced earthquakes that should concern seismically-active New Zealand.

Although it the report has been reported by some as a ‘green light’ on fracking, it clearly states that fracking caused earthquakes which registered 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale. While these earthquakes are minor, the report confirmed that they are of sufficient size to cause deformation of the structure of the fracking well which could lead to well leakage and contamination in the future. One of the authors warned that further fracking in the Blackpool area was very likely to lead to further earthquakes.

The authors suggested that fracking should be subject to greater monitoring and a traffic light system whereby an earthquake of 0.5 or greater would mean fracking would stop until remedial action was taken. These systems are not in place in New Zealand, and regional council officials have admitted they don’t have the expertise to process consents for fracking, with some expecting to receive applications within the next couple of months.

While the link between fracking and earthquakes of any size is disturbing, the link between those minor earthquakes and potential damage to wells which could cause leakage and contamination is just another reason, along with all the other serious concerns around to put in place a moratorium.

The Government shouldn’t wait for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to report back in order to know that we don’t have answers to many unanswered questions, appropriate regulation in place and that councillors don’t yet have the knowledge they need to make decisions about consents. The responsible step would be to enact an immediate moratorium until Kiwis can be assured fracking is safe.

 

67 thoughts on “Fracking earthquakes

  1. I would say that fracking causes earthquakes like I cause traffic by standing in the road then moving away. Fracking may release stored elastic energy within the earth, it does not create it. The issues around the well integrity are what is really important here, in particular the part that travels through the first kilometer or so. After that there is already oil and gas in the ground….

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  2. While these earthquakes are minor, the report confirmed that they are of sufficient size to cause deformation of the structure of the fracking well which could lead to well leakage and contamination in the future.

    Actually, page v in the summary of the report says exactly the opposite:

    Evaluation of potential for upward fluid migration.
    • In the worst case, the fluid could migrate upwards along a potential fault plane by 2000 ft. Because of the presence of a very thick impermeable formation overlying the Bowland shale and the Permian anhydrites that will act as barrier, there is negligible risk of fluid breaching into permeable layers.

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  3. These earthquakes would be the kind that we get 15,000 or so of in NZ every year. I hope you don’t live or work next to a major road because you would be in a constant state of fear over the earthquakes you’ll experience every time a truck goes by.

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  4. After Christchurch, this sort of fearmongering is disgusting.

    Get out of the gutter Gareth.

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  5. Brendan Smithe

    Fracking may release stored elastic energy within the earth, it does not create it.

    There’s no maybe about it… fracking does release elastic energy that causes earthquakes. Many faultlines will remain dormant for thousands of years. Speeding up the process and initiating nucleation is not desired, unless you actually enjoy earthquakes Smithe?

    Spam

    Actually, page v in the summary of the report says exactly the opposite.

    Anybody who reads the report will know you’re full of it Spam. Upwards migration is not the only place where well leakage and contamination can occur and there was clearly deformation of the fracking well in this instance.

    The report states:

    Only a very small fraction of the stage 4 fluid was produced back to the surface. Most likely, the fluid entered a partially gas filled fracture system that was left after the production test.

    The problem is that the frackers are often guessing, and do not know exactly how certain rock types will react, what tectonic instability is there or whether the water tables will be affected. Here’s some more interesting bits from the conclusion:

    The orientation of this fault plane, dipping 70 degrees towards the West with a strike of 20 degrees NNE, agrees with the seismic interpretation and it would also be critically stressed.

    The strongest events occurred many hours after the injections and the signature of the seismic signals was remarkably similar. This is strong evidence that all events originated from the same fault and that the timing of the events was governed by the hydraulics of fluid flow into this fault

    The temporal sequence of the events, with events starting during injection and shortly after injection while there was no seismicity at all before the injections and long after the injections, is clear evidence that the seismic events were induced by the fracture treatments.

    insider

    I hope you don’t live or work next to a major road because you would be in a constant state of fear over the earthquakes you’ll experience every time a truck goes by.

    As usual you’re factually deficient. An earthquake is a seismic wave caused by the sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust. A heavy truck is just vibrating the soil.

    photonz1

    After Christchurch, this sort of fearmongering is disgusting.

    Why is it disgusting that Gareth has informed us of the report that shows fracking has caused earthquakes? The real question is if the smaller documented earthquakes that have been caused by hydraulic fracturing can lead to larger earthquakes? That scientific question is yet unresolved.

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  6. What Gareth isn’t telling you is that these (tiny) earthquakes have been occurring for decades due to ‘normal’ oil and gas extraction.

    I have serious reservations about the practice of fracking and think a moratorium is in order, but I also have serious reservations about people scaremongering for political point scoring.

    This is nothing but a blatant appeal to ignorance and irrational fear.

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  7. …and a traffic light system whereby an earthquake of 0.5 or greater would mean fracking would stop until remedial action was taken

    Yeah, saw that. I’d have thought 0.5 would be below the background shaking we get hereabouts; just look at the drums on geonet, theres wobbles all the time…

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  8. fracking and earthquakes …..plausible

    fracking and cancer ….”As detailed in the report, fracking has been implicated in the contamination of surface and groundwater supplies across the United States. In Pennsylvania, more than 8,000 gallons of fracking fluid containing a suspected carcinogen spilled into a waterway. In Parker County, Texas, fracked gas wells poisoned a drinking water aquifer with benzene and methane. Likewise, in Pavillion, Wyo., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found benzene in groundwater and wells. Benzene exposure is strongly associated with childhood leukemia.”

    http://www.alternet.org/fracking/155022/the_human_cancer_risks_posed_by_extreme_fossil_fuel_extraction/

    Like most New Zealanders I’d say you can stick your fracking ….

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  9. Some people oppose fracking because of the contamination risk, not because of the earthquake risk – but the earthquakes damage to the fracking well does this very thing, increase the chances of water contamination.

    1. Brendan the fracking releases the energy where there is an increased of water contamination.

    2. spam, the earthquakes damage to the fracking well and consequence differs in each case.

    3. photonz is implying that the fact that fracking causes earthquakes should not be mentioned because there is sensitivity about earthquakes after Christchurch, moves to earthquake proof buildings and higher insurance premiums. Maybe his own support for fracking despite water contamination is left undisclosed is the real reason for his sensitivity – as of course there is a risk of water contamination if earthquakes damage the fracking well.

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  10. SPC says “photonz is implying that the fact that fracking causes earthquakes should not be mentioned.. ”

    No – I’m implying that Gareth (and Metiria on tv last night) are trying to deliberately over-hype up the earthquake risk and to make people fearful.

    It’s pretty obvious that that is what they are trying to do,.

    And it’s gutter politics.

    They should get out of the gutter, and clean the off crap that they are covering themselves in.

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  11. Fracking is done to get more fossil fuels out of the ground. Even if the process of fracking itself was clean and safe (and it certainly doesn’t look that way)the end products, oil and gas, will cause environmental damage because their combustion adds to climate change.
    Last night on Backbenchers Metiria mentioned the Precautionary principle- that is not gutter politics.
    Climate change IS something to be fearful of, if you have any sense.

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  12. Fracking is required as we need more fuel and oil so people can continue to fly up and down the country.

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  13. Viv says “Last night on Backbenchers Metiria mentioned the Precautionary principle- that is not gutter politics.”

    No – she was fearmongering, deliberately trying to scare people that we will get earthquakes if we don’t stop fracking.

    After what happened in Chch, that’s definitely rolling around in the gutter covered in muck.

    The whole fracking = earthquakes arguement is nothing more that trying to score political points by falsely creating fear in an already victimised population.

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  14. One Track – does the local refinery do aviation fuel or is it imported?

    There is on going research into using locally made bio-fuel for aviation purposes.

    photonz, it is pretty obvious that fracking causes small earthquakes and that could damage the well and exacerbate contamination risk to water supplies. The risk is greater whenever there are existing fault-lines with existing pressure build up to release and that energy will be released when there there is fracking going on/right where there is a well that can contaminate water supplies.

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  15. SPC. Well thought-out. Your position on fracking is more expert than the experts, and I’ve heard from them face to face.
    I’ve posted on fracking and quakes, quoting you, here:

    http://robertguyton.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/fracking-earthquakes.html

    Hope you are okay with that. I plan to take your most recent observation, plus several others you have made, to present to the Southland Regional Council, upon which I sit. Thanks for your great work.

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  16. Frog – is there a reason for my being in moderation?
    It’s kinda puzzling. Time out for bad behaviour? I’ve been ever so polite…

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  17. They did studies to consider the use of nuclear explosives to release tension in major fault lines.

    They realised that nuclear explosives were not powerful enough to achieve the purpose.

    The Greens think fracking is going to do the job.

    I think that is silly.

    Stick to the truth, or simply stay in your extremist scaremonger corner while the rest of us that care about the environment yet again clean up your damned mess.

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  18. Anybody who reads the report will know you’re full of it Spam. Upwards migration is not the only place where well leakage and contamination can occur and there was clearly deformation of the fracking well in this instance.
    So let me understand this: Even though oil and gas gets trapped in impermeable areas, areas that are usually created by tectonic movement (faults create traps for hydrocarbons), and even though these zones have remained sealed for millions and millions of years through probably billions of natural earthquakes, suddenly a couple of extremely tiny earthquakes are going to result in leakage of these hydrocarbons to other places?

    If you are referring to deformation of the well, then you are also incorrect. Wells are drilled in seismically active areas all the time (because of the aforementioned issue that that is where you find hydrocarbons). Wells are designed to cope with movement with multiple sealing linings, and monitored for signs of leaks. Besides, its an issue for all wells, not just ones that get fracked.

    Put it this way: There are millions of wells world wide in seismic areas. If tectonic movement causes well leakage and blowouts etc, then why aren’t we seeing thousands of such events every year? Because seismic activity, particularly activity of this magnitude, is within the design limits of the wells.

    @SPC: Same applies to your argument.

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  19. ‘The Greens’ are not talking about ‘major fault lines’, Shunda. SPC in particular is saying the the small quakes ’caused’ by fracking could well crack the casings that keep the oil/gas/fracking chemicals out of aquifers. Your wild extrapolations about nuclear bombs and major fault lines are getting you nowhere. The ‘extremist scaremonger’, is yourself.
    Have a go at answering SPC’s claims, Shunda.

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  20. Metiria says, ‘Precautionary Principle’.
    Photonz1 says ‘scaremongery’, thus jumping the shark, which ordinarily only happens once, but this is not the first time for Mr Photo. He’s a recidivist shark-jumper.

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  21. We’ve got the Greens on radio, tv, papers, and more than one headline here – all trying to cash in the Christchurch tragedy so they can scare people that fracking will cause earthquakes.

    And greenfly thinks they’re just being “precautionary”.

    You’d have to be naive in the extreme to fail to see that it’s fearmongering.

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  22. photonz1 – twaddle. Fracking causes small earthquakes, the evidence indicates. Small earthquakes could break protective casings around wells where they pass through aquifers, SPC states. He’s right, I believe. There is therefore, good reason to advise caution. Advising caution is not scaremongery, unless you are a delicate flower, photonz1, timorous and shaking, as if you are being rattled by a mini-quake.
    Or quack.

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  23. My comments keep getting held up in moderation. Could it be because of the handle I use? Trying a slightly changed one!

    Small earthquakes could break protective casings around wells where they pass through aquifers, SPC states. He’s right, I believe.
    A comment that got held up addressed this. Earthquakes do not damage wells, because wells are designed to cope with them. Faulted areas are generally the places that trap hydrocarbons in the first place, so drilling is frequently in seismically active areas.

    Put it this way: There are millions of gas and oil wells around the work drilled in seismically active areas. If small earthquakes the likes of these ones damaged the wells, then there would be thousands of blow-outs every year. There isn’t. This is irrespective of whether a well is fracked or not.

    You may say its not fearmongering, but it is from a perspective that doesn’t understand well engineering.

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  24. @ SPC

    Aviation fuel of avgas is high octane gasoline-type fuel for piston engined aircraft. It is low volume stuff imported just because the scale isn’t worthwhile to make it and it requires specialist refining equipment/processes whcih now only a few refineries globally have.

    Jet fuel or kerosene for airliners is very different and is one of the main products out of the refinery.

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  25. all trying to cash in the Christchurch tragedy

    Can I remind you that some of us are part of “the Christchurch tragedy”.

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  26. As I said greenfly – you’d have to be naive in the extreme…

    The Greens headlines have been “Fracking Earthquakes” – rather than the more accurate “It has been found that over 20 years of fracking in NZ these has been a very small risk of groundwater contamination”

    It’s blatantly obvious that the Greens are deliberately trying to scare people.

    It’s laughable that you’re trying to argue that they’re not fearmongering.

    What’s next – the world’s going to end because of National Standards?

    Oh that’s right – we’ve already had that one.

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  27. “trying to cash in the Christchurch tragedy so they can scare people that fracking will cause earthquakes”

    Sheeesh. Can’t mention the word ‘earthquake’ without being accused of ‘cashing in’ on the Christchurch tragedy. Just to be on the safe side, better not mention ‘tsunami’, ‘hurricane’, ‘heavy rainfall’ or ‘seat belt’.

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  28. “does the local refinery do aviation fuel or is it imported?”

    Refining NZ’s website variously says they supply all NZ’s jet fuel or 83% of the jet fuel. But last I looked most NZ produced oil was exported for refining. Marsden Point mostly refines imported crude.

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  29. @sam

    NZRC does a large chunk of the jet but not all. Most of it goes to Auckland via pipeline to Wiri. NZ oil mainly gets exported because it is often light sweet and works better in refineries with a different configuration to NZRC (eg Australian gasoline units). NZRC is mainly configured to heavier sour crudes, but the balance may change with their upgrade plans.

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  30. photonz1

    20 years of fracking in NZ these has been a very small risk of groundwater contamination”

    There have been at least three documented instances of water contamination in New Zealand already from fracking that I’m aware of. For you to say there is a risk and National to say it is safe is a blatant lie!

    It amuses me that you’re screaming blue murder that the Greens are fear mongering about fracking just because they provide studies that show it causes earthquakes, and then in another post you claim that somebody you have probably never met is going to commit rape again and should therefore be locked up forever. Talk about double standards photonz1.

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  31. Photonz1 – the headline “Fracking Earthquakes” has thrown you completely, poor thing!
    It’s a play on words, photonz1, and not nearly so scary as you think.
    Shall I explain the trickery of Gareth’s words to you, or will you take another, calmer look at it?
    Small earthquakes do follow fracking in some instances, photonz1. The title is accurate. Have Chrischurch residents reported being terrified by Gareth’s choice of title for his post? Do link to these reports to give some substance to your fevered claims, old bean.

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  32. There have been at least three documented instances of water contamination in New Zealand already from fracking that I’m aware of. For you to say there is a risk and National to say it is safe is a blatant lie!
    You saying that there are 3 documented instances? Prove it.

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  33. spam 8.45am

    The matter is one of appropriate regulatory regime. Gareth Hughes covered this earlier.

    “While these earthquakes are minor, the report confirmed that they are of sufficient size to cause deformation of the structure of the fracking well which could lead to well leakage and contamination in the future. One of the authors warned that further fracking in the Blackpool area was very likely to lead to further earthquakes.

    The authors suggested that fracking should be subject to greater monitoring and a traffic light system whereby an earthquake of 0.5 or greater would mean fracking would stop until remedial action was taken. These systems are not in place in New Zealand, and regional council officials have admitted they don’t have the expertise to process consents for fracking, with some expecting to receive applications within the next couple of months.”

    Given the failure of regime for mine safety (for housing, for water protection etc) one would have thought this an issue the government should take more seriously.

    http://www.listener.co.nz/current-affairs/economy/breaking-away-from-light-regulation-in-new-zealand/

    http://www.listener.co.nz/current-affairs/economy/botching-privatisation-again/

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  34. Due to the Christchuch earthquakes, councils all over the South Island have been closing public buildings .This is for public safety reasons, so what is wrong with applying the same principle to the mining technique of fracking?
    The main difference I can see is money. People accept that there is a small, but real, possiblity of harm to the public from unreinforced buildings in earthquakes and because no one is making multi million dollar profits from keeping them open, there is very little fuss when they are closed. Putting aside the issue of climate change for the moment (which we shouldn’t be!!) one could say that there is a small, but real, possiblity of harm from fracking, but because of the dollar signs in people’s eyes, there is a lot of fuss when it is suggested the process be stopped.

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  35. The matter is one of appropriate regulatory regime. Gareth Hughes covered this earlier.
    -and-
    Given the failure of regime for mine safety (for housing, for water protection etc) one would have thought this an issue the government should take more seriously.

    Your confusing two issues. The proposal from the report is for additional regulation on appropriate response should earthquakes be detected during fracking.

    The confused issue is that this is explicitly being justified on the basis that the earthquakes are likely to damage wells.

    This is misleading at best. My point is that earthquakes are already a ‘hazard’ to petroleum mining operations, and existing well design (and yes, regulation) deals with that already. Just because fracking may lead to some very, very minor earthquakes does not create a need for more regulation: the existing regulation deals with this already.

    I realise that the Greens want to either ban or regulate the hell out of everything. I realise that you linking to articles about Pike river and ballooning is trying to paint a picture of the oil and gas industry as needing more regulation. However, the reality is somewhat different, and there is already strong regulation in the oil and gas industry in New Zealand (and this has been recently strengthened).

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  36. Due to the Christchuch earthquakes, councils all over the South Island have been closing public buildings .This is for public safety reasons, so what is wrong with applying the same principle to the mining technique of fracking?
    The main difference I can see is money. People accept that there is a small, but real, possiblity of harm to the public from unreinforced buildings in earthquakes and because no one is making multi million dollar profits from keeping them open, there is very little fuss when they are closed.

    How many people have been killed by earthquakes affecting buildings, and contrast that to the number killed by earthquake damage to il and gas facilities. It is not about money at all, it is about risk to people.

    The oil and gas industry is a safe place to work. it has one of the lowest injury and fataility rates of any industry.

    On a personal note, as a person who has spent a lot of their professional career working to enhance the safety of oil and gas facilities, it is actually quite offensive to have it implied that money is more important than the safety of the people I have worked with.

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  37. The fossil fuel industry continues to put profit before people, in particular people of future generations who will not get a liveable climate if we continue to drill and use oil and gas.
    I was not comparing the likelihood of harm from being in an unreinforced building in an earthquake with the chance of harm from earthquakes that might arise from fracking. My comment was not meant as a personal insult to those who happen to work in the oil industry.
    The point I was trying to make is that people seem to accept the inconvenience and expense of dealing with buildings deemed to be an earthquake risk, it is understood that there is a risk of harm so action is taken. We have been clearly warned that there is a very great risk of harm to ecosystems worldwide and to the lives of humans in the rest of this century and yet effective action is not being taken.
    Fracking could contaminate water supplies, it may increase the risk of earthquakes, but it WILL add to climate change. Fracking should be stopped.

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  38. Greenfly says “The title is accurate” about the fearmongering headline, Fracking Earthquakes.

    Right now the only reason my house is shaking is because I’m laughing so much from your assertion that fracking posses an earthqauke risk to me.

    I’m surprised you are even worried about fracking. I thought you were predicting the world was going to end when National Standards were introduced over two years ago.

    If you are ever short of work you could get employment as an advisor to a doomsday cult.

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  39. From the post:
    “A new report was released this week by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change which confirmed that two earthquakes in the Blackpool area were caused by fracking. Along with a US Geological Survey report out last week it shows scientifically there is a link between fracking and human-induced earthquakes…”

    Dismissing the reports out of hand, photonz1?
    While your head’s down there, does the sand get under your eyelids much?

    You like to apply your rapier-like mind to puzzles, photonz1, I’m betting – if in fact fracking does, in some instances initiate small earthquakes, as the reports say, how secure would this well casings that pass through aquifers here in NZ be? Do you think? We certainly wouldn’t want them rupturing and leaking anything into that lovely clean water, would we?

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  40. Photo’s reaction here reminds me of the classic Faulty Towers episode when “the Germans” came to stay – “DON’T MENTION THE WAR!”

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  41. The fossil fuel industry continues to put profit before people, in particular people of future generations who will not get a liveable climate if we continue to drill and use oil and gas.
    This is a thread on the link between facking and earthquakes. Forgive me when I respond to your posts in this context that explicitly reference risks to people in earthquake damaged buildings, and then discover that apparently you are actually talking about climate change…

    We have been clearly warned that there is a very great risk of harm to ecosystems worldwide and to the lives of humans in the rest of this century and yet effective action is not being taken.
    Fracking could contaminate water supplies, it may increase the risk of earthquakes, but it WILL add to climate change. Fracking should be stopped.

    Well, it may contribute to climate change, but what is the magnitude? But that is not a subject for this thread.

    The change you’ve made to the argument here is actually quite interesting. A few years ago, the greens were promoting ‘peak oil’ and a call to action. They were promoting a view that oil was drying up as a reason for aggresively pursuing alternative energy sources. The shale gas revolution has put a real dampner on that, as it has quickly become clear that there is enough gas to last for thousands of years. The enabler? Fracking.

    Personally, I think this is why the greens are all upset about fracking. The two key arguments against fracking don’t really stand up to scrutiny once you really look at them: Any earthquakes that may occur are so small to be insignificant. Any risk of ground water contamination is actually a risk associated with drilling and production, and is not really related to fracking at all. But a handy soundbite (oh – and the ‘chemicals’ argument is also fatally flawed. The ‘chemicals’ used in fracking aren’t any more dangerous than household chemicals, and the link to BTEX is not from teh fracking, but from the extracted oil and gas). So I suggest that its not the fracking specifically that the Greens are upset about, but what it means for the future energy supply of the world – hence the link to climate change.

    Russel Norman refers to the greens moving to be pragmatic and away from being radical. I suggest that in the spirit of pragmatism, the Greens consider what the wider context of fracking actually means: It allows a transition away from coal. It does not actually make shale gas recoverable, but it makes it recoverable more efficiently, by making individual wells more productive. It would be possible to recover the gas simply by drilling more wells, but is that really in the environmental interests? Don’t the greens promote efficient use of energy? That is all that fracking is: A more efficient means of gas production.

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  42. My Handle is Spam – you are wrong. You say:
    “Any earthquakes that may occur are so small to be insignificant. Any risk of ground water contamination is actually a risk associated with drilling and production, and is not really related to fracking at all.”
    The risk to a ruptured well casing, and thereby the aquifer it passes through, is directly related to fracking. You say ‘earthquakes that may occur are so small to be insignificant’, but mean insignificant to buildings, roads etc, but not to well casings, deep in the ground they are not. The weakness of your argument lies there, with the concrete-encased well-casings that pass through the aquifers we seek to protect from whatever it is that is passing up or down the ‘shaft’, be it chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing, or oil or gas that is making it’s way to the surface, and the small earthquakes that might impact upon those well-casings. Your argument that the chemicals used are of no consequence seems weak in light of the fact that other liquids and a gas also represent a threat to the purity of the water in any aquifer thus positioned.
    Perhaps when you have addressed that particular point, we ‘Greens’ would entertain discussion about whether we are opposed to fracking because it represents a continuation of the fossil-fueled, climate change causing status quo.
    Looking forward to your response.

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  43. Perhaps when you have addressed that particular point, we ‘Greens’ would entertain discussion about whether we are opposed to fracking because it represents a continuation of the fossil-fueled, climate change causing status quo.

    I have addressed it. I addressed it in my post on April 21, 2012 at 1:29 PM:
    The confused issue is that this is explicitly being justified on the basis that the earthquakes are likely to damage wells.

    This is misleading at best. My point is that earthquakes are already a ‘hazard’ to petroleum mining operations, and existing well design (and yes, regulation) deals with that already. Just because fracking may lead to some very, very minor earthquakes does not create a need for more regulation: the existing regulation deals with this already.

    I also addressed it on April 20, 2012 at 1:05 PM:
    A comment that got held up addressed this. Earthquakes do not damage wells, because wells are designed to cope with them. Faulted areas are generally the places that trap hydrocarbons in the first place, so drilling is frequently in seismically active areas.

    Put it this way: There are millions of gas and oil wells around the work drilled in seismically active areas. If small earthquakes the likes of these ones damaged the wells, then there would be thousands of blow-outs every year. There isn’t. This is irrespective of whether a well is fracked or not.

    You may say its not fearmongering, but it is from a perspective that doesn’t understand well engineering.

    And originaly at April 20, 2012 at 8:45 AM:

    So let me understand this: Even though oil and gas gets trapped in impermeable areas, areas that are usually created by tectonic movement (faults create traps for hydrocarbons), and even though these zones have remained sealed for millions and millions of years through probably billions of natural earthquakes, suddenly a couple of extremely tiny earthquakes are going to result in leakage of these hydrocarbons to other places?

    If you are referring to deformation of the well, then you are also incorrect. Wells are drilled in seismically active areas all the time (because of the aforementioned issue that that is where you find hydrocarbons). Wells are designed to cope with movement with multiple sealing linings, and monitored for signs of leaks. Besides, its an issue for all wells, not just ones that get fracked.

    Put it this way: There are millions of wells world wide in seismic areas. If tectonic movement causes well leakage and blowouts etc, then why aren’t we seeing thousands of such events every year? Because seismic activity, particularly activity of this magnitude, is within the design limits of the wells.

    TLDR?
    Earthquakes occur naturally and don’t detroy wells. Ergo small ones from fracking are no greater risk than natural ones.

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  44. Spam – that is very convincing information.
    I am interested now as to whether the well-casings are in fact, able to withstand small quakes, whether there have in fact been no ruptures and whether in fact, sufficiently sensitive monitoring has been deployed here in NZ.
    Can you link me to an industry link, for starters?
    If not, can you instead explain the mechanism used to protect well-casings from earthquake damage?

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  45. My Handle Is Spam

    You saying that there are 3 documented instances? Prove it.

    1. Shell Todd Oil Services Ltd Maui and Kapuni Production Stations Joint Monitoring Programme Annual Report 2007-2008 (PDF)

    2. Last month, Taranaki Daily News reported:

    However, in June last year, another regional council report showed there was water contamination at Kapuni sites where fracking had occurred. Shallow groundwater below some blow- down pits is not fit for potable water or stock use and groundwater didn’t meet the criteria for irrigation. Two of these sites will be fracked later this year.

    At least one of the pits Shell Todd has used for storing fracking fluids does not show any contamination, but there is BETX contamination beneath at least one other site where no fracking fluids were stored, regional council director environment quality Gary Bedford says.

    Wherever it came from, the contamination in the groundwater, identified in at least one pit as far back as 2004, has not been cleaned up. The water is directly underneath the blow-down pits which are within the wider exploration site controlled by Shell Todd, Bedford says.

    3. C Boyd – Drilling Waste Disposal Monitoring Programmes Annual Report 2009-2010 (PDF).

    4. Not specific to fracking, but you get the picture: Origin Energy NZ Ltd Rimu Pipeline Leak, October 2010 (PDF).

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  46. My Handle Is Spam

    Any earthquakes that may occur are so small to be insignificant.

    Even though there’s been a huge increase in the amount of earthquakes, the jury is simply out on whether fracking causes large earthquakes, although some authoritative voices have postulated that hydraulic fracturing is not safe in this regard.

    Chief scientist of the U.S. Geological Survey’s earthquake hazard team, William Ellsworth believes:

    “There is no guarantee that you could prevent a ‘4’ from growing into a ‘6’ or even an ‘8’, particularly at the start of the process. So, your good intentions would have a fair chance of inducing the event you hope to avoid”.

    Thomas J. Ahrens, a geophysics professor at the California Institute of Technology, agreed with Ellsworth’s warning stating; “such earthquakes may easily get out of control.”

    Believing that triggering small earthquakes does not cause larger earthquakes implies knowledge of the stressed faults, when this is currently technically unachievable.

    Any risk of ground water contamination is actually a risk associated with drilling and production, and is not really related to fracking at all.

    Wrong! Please refer to the attached documentation in my previous comment that shows water contamination in Taranaki caused by fracking.

    But a handy soundbite (oh – and the ‘chemicals’ argument is also fatally flawed. The ‘chemicals’ used in fracking aren’t any more dangerous than household chemicals, and the link to BTEX is not from teh fracking, but from the extracted oil and gas).

    Incorrect! Most of the acutely toxic chemicals used in fracking are environmentally hazardous.

    It is likely that the frackers have used BTEX in the past. That’s the most probable way the documented BTEX contamination at Kapuni occurred.

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  47. @Jackal:

    So our of your 4 documented instances:
    1 & 2 are actually the same thing – the first is Shell Todd’s environmental report, the second is a news article based on that. The problem for you is that this does not show any evidence of groundwater contamination due to problems with fracking. It shows evidence of hydrocarbon contamination due to contaminated fluid being stored in a pit. Given that these pits are used for well blowdowns, then that is more likely the source than the fluid returned after a frack-job. And zero possibility of the frack actually being the direct cause of the contaminations.

    Number 3? What? That is ‘contamination’ on a guy’s land farm used for treating of drilling cuttings. Zero to do with fracking. This is about as plausible as you blaming me sewerage into the Whanganui river on the basis that I flushed my toilet at home.

    And number 4 – yeah, also completely unrelated to fracking.

    So I make that 0 from 4.

    @Greenfly:
    As part of the facilities safety case under the HSSE in employment act, Petroleum mining, operators are required to monitor wells and take remedial action.

    Wells are constructed with a cemented casing and a number of inner tubes called “annuli”. These must be monitored. The “A” annulus (the thing immediately surrounding the well tubing) must be capable of handing the full containment pressure of the well. If this starts to leak, it must be investigated and appropriate remedial action taken.

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  48. Spam

    The problem for you is that this does not show any evidence of groundwater contamination due to problems with fracking.

    You’re trying to narrow the debate down to one about a small part of the fracking problem ie drilling. You wanted to see evidence of fracking related problems and I have provided it.

    That is ‘contamination’ on a guy’s land farm used for treating of drilling cuttings. Zero to do with fracking.

    Incorrect! Please read the report and stop barking up the tree.

    This is about as plausible as you blaming me sewerage into the Whanganui river on the basis that I flushed my toilet at home.

    What does that even mean? May I ask if you’re involved in the fracking industry and perhaps the chemicals have started to affect your cognitive ability?

    And number 4 – yeah, also completely unrelated to fracking.

    I presume you don’t know what produced water is? Although not specific to fracking, that incident is related. Read the report again dickhead and stop being disingenuous now that you’ve been proven wrong!

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  49. Oh dear.

    Fracking isn’t actually drilling. Fracking is injection of water and proppant (ceramic beads) into a well to fracture the sands, and hold them open to increase flow area. You are trying to claim that anything to do with drilling or production operations is somehow “fracking”. It is not. Fracking is not waste disposal.

    Incorrect! Please read the report and stop barking up the tree.

    So point out to me where in the report you expect me to read.

    What does that even mean? May I ask if you’re involved in the fracking industry and perhaps the chemicals have started to affect your cognitive ability?

    My point is that disposal of drilling cuttings has stuff all to do with fracking. Yes, land farms can be used to dispose of frack fluid (although I don’t see in that report where frack fluid disposal is mentioned), but if that causes problems, then it is a problem with the land farm, not with the fracking.

    I presume you don’t know what produced water is? Although not specific to fracking, that incident is related. Read the report again dickhead and stop being disingenuous now that you’ve been proven wrong!
    Yes. Produced water is production of water from a hydrocarbon reservoir. It is normally extremely saline water. Is that what you think it is? I hope you don’t think that “produced water” is producing back water that was injected as part of a frack job, because it isn’t. Most oil fields, and Rimu is no exception, are in contact with natural aquifers, and this water gets produced with the oil, separated and disposed of. Did you note that they tested for chlorides? That is because produced water is extremely saline. That is how you test for formation water being co-produced with all.

    dickhead
    Awhhh! I love you to!

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  50. Spam

    My point is that disposal of drilling cuttings has stuff all to do with fracking.

    What absolute rubbish! If there was no fracking going on, there would be no waste to dispose of and therefore no environmental problem.

    When Phil Heatley says:

    The independent body Taranaki regional council went to Hill Laboratories, which is independent to, did water testing who found no effects on water quality.

    It’s right to asume that he means all water in Taranaki has not had any adverse effects from fracking… and its associated processes. The documents linked to above make him, and you for that matter, complete liars!

    So are you a fracker or working in the oil and gas industry in some way Spam?

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  51. “My point is that disposal of drilling cuttings has stuff all to do with fracking. Yes, land farms can be used to dispose of frack fluid (although I don’t see in that report where frack fluid disposal is mentioned), but if that causes problems, then it is a problem with the land farm, not with the fracking.”

    Oh dear, Spam! You were doing so well before you showed your fondness for splitting hairs in order to seem learned. If you haven’t seen it yet, the public (that’s us) regard the whole process – associated storage of fracking chemicals and all, as ‘fracking’. Your nit-picking doesn’t add to your argument, no matter how technically correct you may be. I suppose you could claim that the effects on nearby waterways from the huge areas of run-off that are created by the ‘platforms’ needed for the process is not ‘fracking’ and can’t be considered in anyway to be resulting from fracking. However, most people would look at all of the effects that would otherwise not have occurred, had fracking not been the method employed, and sheet home any negative effects to where they belong.
    My guess, Jackal, is that Spam has been assigned to ‘help’ us understand the business better and he was doing a good job of that for a while.

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  52. What absolute rubbish! If there was no fracking going on, there would be no waste to dispose of and therefore no environmental problem.
    What about the waste from the drilling?

    Oh dear, Spam! You were doing so well before you showed your fondness for splitting hairs in order to seem learned. If you haven’t seen it yet, the public (that’s us) regard the whole process – associated storage of fracking chemicals and all, as ‘fracking’. Your nit-picking doesn’t add to your argument, no matter how technically correct you may be. I suppose you could claim that the effects on nearby waterways from the huge areas of run-off that are created by the ‘platforms’ needed for the process is not ‘fracking’ and can’t be considered in anyway to be resulting from fracking. However, most people would look at all of the effects that would otherwise not have occurred, had fracking not been the method employed, and sheet home any negative effects to where they belong.
    It’s not splitting hairs. There is a clear difference between drilling activities and fracking. Not every well is fracked. I am actually trying to educate people on the difference. I am actually trying to point out that a lot of the issues attributed to fracking are really nothing to do with the process at all.

    Fracking is not done offshore, as it’s too expensive. Yet produced water is still produced there and must be disposed of. Drilling cuttings are still produced there, and must be disposed of. Nothing to do with fracking.

    Trying to pin every environmental issue ever as being directly attributable to fracking is just plain wrong.

    Eg. the “points” Jackal made about the Kapuni blowdown pits are wrong – its all in the report he linked to. Wells used to be “blown down” to “blow down pits”. Blowing down a well is depressuring everything upwards of the subsurface safety valve. This process would have put hydrocarbon gas and liquid directly into an unlined pit! In hindsight, of course that is going to contaminate the ground! Gas and gas-condensate contains BTEX. That is where it comes from, not frack fluid! The reality is that according to the report, those sorts of pits were routinely used and now are not. Also from the report linked to, they will apparently be lined if used again.

    Similarly with the land farms. The fact that drilling cuttings are disposed of does not in any way indicate that any contamination there has anything at all to do with fracking because drilling and fracking are very different things!

    And then I think he was trying to suggest that produced water is frack water…

    My guess, Jackal, is that Spam has been assigned to ‘help’ us understand the business better and he was doing a good job of that for a while.

    Umm no. Yes, I work in the oil & gas industry, and no I don’t do fracking (but have learned quite a bit about it). Standard disclaimer that my opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer(s). I am here independently and on my own volition.

    I am here because I see this as an opportunity to have a robust debate (first and foremost), and as an opportunity to learn from others and and if possible, educate others.

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  53. Spam

    Trying to pin every environmental issue ever as being directly attributable to fracking is just plain wrong.

    Such a grandiose statement there Spam. Nobody here is trying to blame every environmental issue on fracking. We are however under no illusions as to the detrimental impact that has already occurred because of the environmentally dangerous practice of fracking.

    You incorrectly claim that the pipeline is only for transporting fluid from offshore and that the produced water reference was to do with drilling and not fracking. However the Rimu A1 is an onshore fracking site, which incidentally has been fracked with diesel. I refer to the Origin Energy NZ Ltd report again that you have obviously not bothered to read:

    For the balance of the time, on a daily basis and under low pressure conditions, the line is used to transfer well stream product from the Rimu A1 well to the Rimu Production Station. This operation utilises lift gas to produce from the well. Pressure can vary between 13 and 28 bar as the Rimu A wells are flowed.

    The 100 NB pipeline is made out of steel, specification API 5L Grade X52, and has a total length of 1.8 km. The outside diameter is 114.3 mm with a nominal wall thickness of 6.02 mm and a design life of 50 years.

    [...]

    The 100 NB line connects Rimu A wellsite to the Rimu Production station. It was installed in 2001 as part of the Rimu field development. This line transfers the entire well stream product (hydrocarbons, produced water and gas) from the wells to the production station.

    You’ve got to wonder why it didn’t last even a fifth of its design life. Don’t tell me they forgot to account for the corrosiveness in the various fluids being pumped? Fucking geniuses!

    The localised corrosion that caused the leak appeared to be triggered by a combination of CO2 corrosion, pipeline orientation, pooling of the oil in water emulsion, accumulated sediment, and other possible factors that are yet to be determined.

    If they cannot get a simple pipeline right, why should they be trusted with other more technical undertakings?

    Please don’t provide us with disinformation Spam. It’s tedious and just shows us that the industry is nothing but a bunch of liars!

    Standard disclaimer that my opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer(s).

    So who do you work for then?

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  54. Actually, while “Fracking” the planet is perhaps a bit worse than drilling into it, and maybe not as bad as blowing it up and strip mining it, the problems come with the insatiable demand for hydrocarbon based fuels and the increasing difficulty of reaching them and extracting them.

    The deep offshore drilling is a problem as well. We don’t blame everything on “Fracking” the planet except perhaps in the sense that the word means “fucking” per the “Battlestar Galactica” writers….

    This is a long term problem, it doesn’t get better with time, and it ultimately must stop. Preferably while there are still some such fuels to ease the transition to other energy sources.

    This is a philosophical level to this issue that is not being approached at all. Whether fracking is particularly worse than other ways of extracting hydrocarbons, has a lot more to do with two long term unknowns than any known issue.

    The long term effects of substantial weakening of a layer of rock in an earthquake zone now are known to include an expectation of more earthquakes.

    The injection of poisons deep into the earth where they stay… we hope. Nothing ever goes “away” but where these MAY go is a matter of concern. Having made a region geologically more active, one cannot guarantee safety.

    …and the oil/gas is NOT as valuable as a good reliable fresh water supply. If you doubt that, try to drink oil instead of water for a day.

    I would prefer a whacking great carbon tax that renders the search for additional hydrocarbons uneconomic and pushes the effort of the industrial energy suppliers towards other sources.

    After all, as long as we’re in the business of risking the future existence of our species by burning every carbon atom we can get our hands on, adding risks of poisoning our drinking water and making buildings fall on our head isn’t likely to deter us.

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  55. Such a grandiose statement there Spam. Nobody here is trying to blame every environmental issue on fracking. We are however under no illusions as to the detrimental impact that has already occurred because of the environmentally dangerous practice of fracking.It appears to me that this is exactly what you are doing. Let me explain:

    You incorrectly claim that the pipeline is only for transporting fluid from offshore and that the produced water reference was to do with drilling and not fracking. However the Rimu A1 is an onshore fracking site, which incidentally has been fracked with diesel. I refer to the Origin Energy NZ Ltd report again that you have obviously not bothered to read:
    No, I said that the water was produced water, not fracking water. This pipeline is a flowline that transports well fluid (water, oil and gas). Have you actually understood the report? Read section 6. It is very clear that this was a leak due to internal corrosion. It is actually quite clear: The pipeline was used only intermittently, this allowed solids to accumulate at the bottom of the pipe, this prevented corrosion inhibitor from protecting the metal, it corroded and leaked. How is there any causal link there between fracking and the leak? I am honestly baffled at how you can make that link, except that the well feeding the pipeline was, at one point fracked. That is not a causal link! The pipeline wasn’t fracked. The pipeline didn’t fail due to exposure to frack fluid. The pipeline wasn’t even exposed to frack pressures. There is no link. This is my point: If you think there is a link between that failure and fracking, the only real link is that they are both related to the oil and gas industry.

    If they cannot get a simple pipeline right, why should they be trusted with other more technical undertakings?
    Do you hold every industry to such a high standard, Jackal? Does every failure any time ever mean that people are incompetent and aren’t allowed to do anything else?

    And as an aside: I think I understand why you and greenfly were getting so het up about my comments on the land farm. Do you understand what a land farm is? It is a waste disposal site for drilling waste. The drilling waste is purposefully spread out onto the ground, where bacteria break down the chemicals into harmless products. They have a resource consent and environmental monitoring program to ensure that this does not run-off and contaminate waterways etc.

    While your report shows no evidence that frack fluid is disposed of at the land farm (and I believe that the council is actually disallowing that), that is my point re fracking: Contamination of the land farm is not directly attributable to the evils of fracking. That was actually my (admittedly poor) sewerage analogy: I flush my toilet (dispose of frack fluid) in what I consider to be an environmentally sound manner. Unfortunately for me, the sewerage plant does not handle it properly and it leaks into a river (land farm not managed properly leading to contamination).

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  56. Spam (I’m trying to guess who you are – Joe Johnston? Chris Baker? No matter…)
    Het up? Nah, just testing the waters. I knew a little about land farms, though I thought they were worm farms for the purpose.
    I’ve a question: you say ‘they have a resource consent, but did those in Taranaki have consents? I read that fraccing has been safely carried out in Taranaki for 20 years but only recently, as a result of public pressure, did the Taranaki Regional Council require and grant, consents for fracking. What went on prior to that? Was there monitoring of the sort that is now (presumably) required? I’m certain you will be able to answer these questions. You seem very familiar with the industry.

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  57. And another thing… your sewerage analogy is a poor one. A member of the public could perhaps be excused for flushing into a faulty system, but industry can hardly claim, ‘we thought is was okay!’. They’d be required to have certainty, surely. After all, the material was generated by them as a consequence of their industry, not natural causes, as your mythical householder/toilet user would claim.

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  58. I’ve a question: you say ‘they have a resource consent, but did those in Taranaki have consents?
    I meant that the Land Farm has a resource consent. The environmental monitoring report that Jackal linked to was a report commissioned to assess the performance against the consent.

    I read that fraccing has been safely carried out in Taranaki for 20 years but only recently, as a result of public pressure, did the Taranaki Regional Council require and grant, consents for fracking. What went on prior to that? Was there monitoring of the sort that is now (presumably) required?
    I am not actually too sure of the details. I am aware that oil & gas companies have discharge consents and that these are managed by the Regional Council. Specifically for fracking, I assume that this was considered a well intervention operation, and therefore as long as any discharges were managed within existing discharge consents, then no further consenting was required.

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  59. And another thing… your sewerage analogy is a poor one. A member of the public could perhaps be excused for flushing into a faulty system, but industry can hardly claim, ‘we thought is was okay!’. They’d be required to have certainty, surely.

    Agreed – but to my mind that should be reasonable. If they perform due diligence and reach a view that the person handling and disposing of the waste is a reasonable and prudent operator, then I don’t think its reasonable to hold the originator of the waste responsible for a failure of the waste management company (however I would expect them to review / cancel their contract should there be repeated breaches).

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  60. While the fracking being undertaken in Taranaki was progressing without consent, what monitoring requirements were there in place? The industry’s own? Are we to accept that the claim that there was no issue with the fracking in Taranaki is based on industry’s ‘word’?
    As to the ‘waste managment company’ that deals with the fracking waste chemicals and material in the ‘land farms’, is that a seperate agency? If so, why?
    With regard your explanation for the lack of consent: “therefore as long as any discharges were managed within existing discharge consents, then no further consenting was required.”, why is it then, do you suppose, that consents are required now?
    Appreciate your time.

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  61. While the fracking being undertaken in Taranaki was progressing without consent, what monitoring requirements were there in place? The industry’s own? Are we to accept that the claim that there was no issue with the fracking in Taranaki is based on industry’s ‘word’?
    There is “compliance” environmental monitoring as per the existing discharge consents. The Shell Todd report linked to above is one example of such a report. There are lots of them on the TRC website. Resource consents are not the only legislation in play. There are also inspections and compliance with the Petroleum Regulations, with independent inspectors having to assure that integrity is being managed. There are also a number of reporting requirements under those regulations (HSE in Employment Act 1192 – Petroleum Regulations).

    As to the ‘waste managment company’ that deals with the fracking waste chemicals and material in the ‘land farms’, is that a seperate agency? If so, why?
    I presume that it’s because it is not an oil companies core business. It is one of the many support industries to the oil companies. Oil companies also outsource drilling, production testing, well interventions etc etc. Why not outsource waste management? Every other industry does (eg. local garages don’t have their own used oil processing plants).

    With regard your explanation for the lack of consent: “therefore as long as any discharges were managed within existing discharge consents, then no further consenting was required.”, why is it then, do you suppose, that consents are required now?
    Appreciate your time.

    I expect it is public pressure. If you look at the TRC criteria for Resource consents:

    Resource consents are required to:

    take, use, dam or divert water
    discharge contaminants onto or into land, air or water
    erect, use or disturb structures in the coastal marine area
    erect, use or disturb structures in, on, under or over river or lake beds
    install groundwater bores or wells

    I would assume that the lack of consenting was because oil companies felt that well entry operations are covered by existing consents (for example, pumping water into a well to “kill” it does not require a consent, nor should it).

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  62. Ha! That’s funny, “I would assume that the lack of consenting was because oil companies felt that well entry operations are covered by existing consents”
    I’d have thought it was up to the Council to decide what was required, not the oil companies. Was the Council ‘not looking’ and assuming that the oil companies were keeping them informed. Consents for these activities are required elsewhere – did the oil companies ‘forget’ to tell the Council? I guess it took the public to do the Council’s job for them. Surely, “discharge contaminants onto or into land, air or water” covers the use of chemical, injected into the ground. Did no one think of it? Odd. The ” “compliance” environmental monitoring as per the existing discharge consents” you mention wouldn’t have covered those things we are concerned about; the accidental discharge of those chemicals into, for example, aquifers. If the companies weren’t required to monitor for that, the Council would not have been notified had there been a leak, I’m betting.

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  63. Well, as noted it is only my opinion and I am not aware what discussions or engagement occured between the council and any of the companies. And its not quite as straight forward as you imply. Injection of “chemicals” into the well for well killing or suspension of wells is covered by existing consents. I believe the disposal of produced water into wells is also covered by existing consents. So if an oil comapny is allowed to do basically the same thing in other wells, then it is not too much of a stretch to assume that fracking, which carries bugger all incremental risk if any over normal well entry operations (aside from the hysteria), should already be covered.

    As for the monitoring, not naming names but some oil companies are completely anal about their reporting (they will report even drips from an oil filter) and the others are generally pretty robust in their reporting. They work on the basis of building trust between the regulators and the companies – that is just good business. If there is any hint of being less than open and transparent with the regulators, you open yourself up to a lot of hassle.

    This is one thing that does annoy me: the assumption that oil companies, because they deal with oil are assumed to be out to screw over the environment for a quick buck. That is simply not true, and if you look at what happened to BP as a result of the Gulf Of Mexico spill, all companies that I have worked with are falling all over themselves to show how responsible and how careful they are. Hence the anal reporting.

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  64. Good to hear that the oil companies report analy – some industries only do it every two years.
    While it is good to hear that even drips from filters are detailed, I’d be (considerably)more impressed if oil companies, intent on drilling in deep waters offshore of New Zealand, were to pay a bond equivalent to the real cost of clean-up, should their be a spill like the one you mention. You know, Mexico. Then they’d have some real credibility.

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  65. I don’t think that oil companies are setting out to ‘screw over the environment’ . Rather that the direct effects (pollution) & indirect effects (climate change) of their core business damage the environment and it appears that the oil companies are more interested in protecting their profits than truly being responsible and open.
    As an example of this type of behaviour, I have included a link to this article in the Guardian today.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/25/bp-engineer-arrest-internal-estimates

    from the article …“BP has always disputed the government figures, and those of independent scientists. It has also fought in court to keep its own internal estimates of the flow rate a secret. Now the affidavit released on Tuesday suggest that BP knew more oil was coming out of the well in the early days after the explosion on 20 April 2010 than it was reporting to the federal government or the public.

    Spam- your faith in the basic goodness of oil companies is touching, but perhaps misplaced.

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  66. these are natural disasters… we cant do anything to stop them. but we can play a part after that to help the victims.

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