Tag Archives: drilling

Re-structure Regulation Please

Cuttings from HDD (through chalk can be used mas agricultural lime, saving many tonne-truck miles.

An “environmental commission-like-body” is needed to replace the role of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice in enforcing environmental law post-Brexit, says Environment Secretary Michael Gove.   I have recently sent a few hundred tonnes of excavated chalk to landfill because the circumstances did not fit the current interpretation of the regulations.  We really do not need any more regulators.  Maybe Brexit is a real opportunity to re-structure the regulation we have got to raise productivity within a framework of environmental care.  We could use CL:AIRE.  Look it up.  Credit to DEFRA.


Bill Butterworth, Land research Ltd, 29 November 17


5th November – Remember, Remember

Look carefully! The cardboard replica of the Houses of Parliament is backed up by an enormous pile of firewood. Moments after this picture was taken, the whole lot went up in fire and smoke.

Put on one side for a moment the shenanigans of MPs in the Palace of Westminster and elsewhere.  Frankly, apart from a bad example to our kids, they are largely irrelevant. There is more reason to ask why the productivity of the UK lags so far behind other nations. The mechanics of Westminster, however, the Civil Service, is so hell-bent on not making mistakes that their not-science-based development of more and more regulations stifles innovation and entrepreneurial activity. We have lost the art of safe enabling. It is not the Palace of Westminster we need to burn, it is all the regulations and start again with an objective of enough, and only enough,regulation to innovate and produce – safely.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd 5 November 2017



Je suis le Roi de la mairde


A normal pond? Not quire – note the white colouration of the water, This is spent drilling fluid from drilling through chalk to bring cables off the North Sea wind farms.



The attached below link is to the Dutch drilling company, VSH website. The pictures (scroll down a bit) are of the drilling operation bringing cables off the North Sea wind farms to the site at Holt in North Norfolk.  This brings renewable energy to the UK consumers.  What Land Research does is to take the cuttings and spent fluids from such operations and re-use them, usually on agricultural land to replace the 2.5 million tonnes of top soil which the UK loses by wind and rain erosion, down into the sea, every year. Renewable energy with zero waste from such construction operations.


Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 22 June 17


Farming, the utilities and UK economic life

Dom Arnold’s JCB Fastrack and 360 excavator on its way to assist in laying cables from the North Sea wind farms under farmland in Norfolk to the National Grid to supply the economicm life of the UK.

Farming is not just food production, it is the back-bone of the economic life of the UK. It is not just the food chain which is integrated with so much of UK industry, it is the land itself.

The land is what the whole lot stands on, even the City of London and all its financial activity. It is the land across which we travel and which carries the life blood of economic activity.  It is the land across which the water, electricity and gas are channelled to carry energy to the people and their businesses.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ld. 7th June 17













The Bottom Line

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Farming is certainly about “countryside” but it is also about survival and production to feed the people of the world.

Circel rainbow and phyllosophy

Back in the late 1980’s, I was advising ICI Plant Protection, as was, about direct drilling and their translocated, green-leaf killer, Gramoxone.  We ran a competition called “The Bottom Line” and the prize was a Moore Unidrill (which, incidentally, is still a brilliantly designed drill). The challenge put to 50 farmers was to take one field and cut the number of passes compared with the rest of the farm just by one pass.  We made a comparison of the reduced pass field with a neighbouring field. The farmer chose the passes and how they cut down on energy input.  We calculated yield based on ears per sq m and calculated MOEC – Margin Over Establishment Costs (pass costs calculated from John Nix’s Pocket Book – the farm management “bible” of the time).  The average improvement of MOEC of the reduced pass fields was 11% and the winner showed a commendable 19%.  A very interesting observation from some of the farms was that when the number of passes on one field was cut, the yield on other fields went up.  Timeliness in cultivations was vital then and, it will be progressively important as global warming advances as evidenced by this last twelve months of oscillating weather.

The Wednesday sustainability blog – Bill Butterworth –

The original patent on the Moore direct drill was really clever – the depth of placement of seed remained the same regardless of the level of seed in the hopper. Getting the crop in at the right time and with even depth and moisture round the seed is key to rapid, even establishment and  yield.

Shale gas is BEO



Do you heat your home by gas? How long would it take to change your house and several million others to renewable electricity – if we had it? (Which we don’t.)

Why is shale gas BEO (Best Environmental Option) and an environmental necessity in the UK? There is a stark choice looming.  Solar and wind turbine farms do not produce gas. Around two thirds/ three quarters of UK homes are heated by gas. Just suppose we had the renewable energy capability which was also sustainable (you get more out then you put in), which we do not have yet, but even if we did, how long would it take to change all those domestic properties to renewable and sustainable electricity?  Never mind the cost (which would be substantial), how long would it take to change several million households? Without any doubt, any doubt whatsoever, several generations.

A significant proportion of our gas is imported.  No other country in the world has technology as good as the UK drilling industry.  No other country in the world is as well regulated and inspected as the UK.  There are British drilling fluids you can drink. (Not too much at once – you would get constipated but not poisoned.)  Logically, if we have a higher degree of environmental friendliness, have our shale gas not someone else’s.  Shale gas is a clean burn “transition fuel” which will buy us the time and give us the cash to develop sustainable renewable energy – provided we do not squander the cash on something else. (Not to mention North Sea oil?) Keeping jobs here is a bonus and not an insignificant one.

Want some more figures?  Go to www.shalegas.co.uk.

Bill Butterworth 6th February 2016



Shale gas & pollution – What comes out of the well?

360 scooping from cuttings seive

Top right of the picture is a sand screen. In the pit are cuttings and spent drilling fluids from a very long way down in the earth. The thick mud was spread to land safely and in an entirely environmentally friendly way supervised by the Environment Agency.


What comes out of the hole is, hopefully, mostly gas.  Before that happens, and indeed for the life of the well, lots of other things come out. Much of the other stuff is probably not environmentally unfriendly.

Firstly, the shaft will be bored through a range of strata, some of which may contain elements or compounds which might be toxic in some way.  The drilling fluids which are used to carry the drill cuttings out of the well as it is bored (the “flowback”), will also bring out these other materials – if they are there.  Secondly, the high pressure water used in volume to create the hydraulic fracturing will also dissolve materials from the shale, especially Sodium chloride – common salt.  Anyone who dismisses these potential dangers is, at best, irresponsible, and at worst, criminal.

There are two possible approaches to dealing with these “arisings” out of the well.  Firstly, it is important to note that in the UK (and indeed all of the EU) these arisings are legally a Controlled Waste and that means subject to regulation – of which there is plenty and the Environment Agency knows that they will be watched every step of the way by a lot of aggressive people (some emotional, not very well informed and motivated by overseas interests).

The first way of dealing with the arisings is to isolate them in a restricted area.  That could be in a lagoon or enclosed space and left there forever.  In such a case, IF there is any risk, it is called a “point risk” and is always at its maximum. Alternatively, the cuttings could be used in, say, the construction of sea wall and flood defence work.  It is likely that our regulators will favour this route because it is relatively easy for those drafting the regulations to identify the risks and write the regulations to contain the risks – even if it means permanently.  The disadvantage of this route, hover, is that if there is a concentration of a material which might be toxic, it is still there as a “point risk”.

The second way is to remember that nature is remarkably resilient and, given time and enough spreading out, will deal with almost anything and to its sustainable advantage. This known as a “dispersed risk”. The route is likely to be favoured by environmental scientists with the right training and experience because it provides for the identification, management and the sustainable elimination of the risks by creating an environmental benefit.  There advantage of this route is that if (again “if”) there is a concentration of a material which might be toxic, then a “dispersed risk” can be identified and managed by competent people and processed out of existence.

This area of discussion will be very interesting to watch. It revolves around whether the arisings are seen as “wastes” (a word with negative implications) or a “resource” (a word which implies benefit and sustainability) i.e. not to be lightly lost or left un-used.

The Sunday shale gas blog from Bill Butterworth 30 February 2016