Tag Archives: earthquakes

Shale gas and earthquakes

Bentonite is often used in the drilling fluid used in drilling for shale gas, Bentonite is a pure natural clay. you can eat it, it is not toxic (but it will may you constipated).

See  https://landresearchonline.com/shale-gas/ 

Land Research Ltd, 27 June 18

 

Shale gas, correlation and earthquakes

 

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There is a bridge between earthquakes and shale gas exploration – but exactly where and what is that bridge?

“Correlation is not evidence of connection or causation.”

 Sorry, this is a bit long but it is intended to put a balanced view about the complexities of the hot and moving inside of the living earth which is 24,000 miles round at the equator.

A special report on Sky News UK, 19 April 15, looked at a relationship between fracking and earthquakes in Texas. That report portrayed Professor Brian Stump, SMU University, Dallas, quietly saying that “there is undoubtedly a correlation between fracking and earthquakes”. The professor is an acknowledged expert seismologist. Not taking his statement seriously would be foolish.  However, what does it mean?

Many years ago, when I was a student learning about statistics, it was pointed out that there is a correlation between the divorce rate in the UK and the rate of importation of wooden rolling pins. The point is that it is not difficult to find sets of figures which have similar patterns and therefore appear to be related.  They might be.  They might not be.  What the word “correlation” does is to alert that there might be a relationship.  To establish that there is a real connection, there has to be a logic or understood mechanism and there has to be evidence. When I used to do a great deal of work as an expert witness in court, if I wanted the judge to believe me, then I had to state a clear opinion, give  a common sense explanation for that view and show evidence that is was true.  The essence of scientific thinking is to have a hypothesis, have a logical explanation, and be able to test to provide evidence.  Frankly, Professor Stump is dramatically more competent than I to comment or test that correlation.  Nevertheless, I am left wondering and it may be that this is so complex, or at least so variable from one location to another that we will never be able to be definitive.  It seems logical to observer that there are, from time to time, new areas of seismic activity where none had been recorded before.  These may be that nobody had bothered recording before (so there was no record) or they had recorded no activity but, all of a sudden, there was some – that may be due to the earth itself which is still very hot at its core and still cooling. So, if there was  a situation where in the USA, as Professor Stump observed, adequate records showing more seismic activity after shale fracking than before, it may have been due to that fracking, it may not. Until more is known, it seem to me that the following is a reasonable position to take.

The first shale gas well drilled in the UK was near the Northern seaside resort of Blackpool.  There were reports of earthquakes and the drilling of the shale well was immediately blamed.. You don’t have to be a qualified seismologist to understand something about fracking and earthquakes. Consider a few billion tonnes of rock a mile or two below the surface and put some water under pressure into a crack in that rock.  Mostly it is not necessary but suppose also that you stick in a small explosive charge. What does common sense tell you is going to happen?

For those old enough to remember the cold war between the West and The Soviet Union, each testing bigger and bigger hydrogen bombs usually below the ground, they may remember that there was a fear that we might crack the surface of the earth’s crust. These weapons were hundreds, even thousands of times larger than the bombs dropped on Japan during the Second World War. Hiroshima’s bomb was around 15 k tonnes   (equivalent to 15,000 tonnes of TNT explosive) and the USSR’s largest 50,000 k tonnes.  In the case of fracking for shale gas, we are not talking of tonnes of explosive, more of kilos and iit maybe that no explosives are used, just high pressure fluids, mainly water

The process of fracking always uses water under pressure. Sometimes it uses small charges of explosives – we are talking kilos, not even tonnes of explosives against millions, or even billions, of tonnes of rock.  Blackpool has always had earthquakes. These have been noticeable maybe 2 or 3 times a year but never done any damage.  Millions, even trillions, of tonnes of earth’s crust is under tension and stress and, occasionally, it moves a bit.  Now, if that tension and stress was on the edge of moving and causing a detectable quake, what fracking might do is trigger the quake which would have happened anyway. More than that, what the injection of fluids are more likely to do is lubricate the movement which was about to happen anyway and make a series of short movements which would reduce the effect of the quake. Blackpool might well have less detectable earthquakes, not more.

Sensibly, we do need Professor Stump and others to keep an eye on this and keep investigating.  Nevertheless, at present, the evidence we have is that this is, at worst, not a serious risk of earthquake damage in the UK.

Bill Butterworth  7 November 15

Next week; Shale gas exploration and pollution.

Earthquakes from fracking in USA

  •  Sky News special report on fracking 19 April 15
  • The meaning of “correlation”
  • Being conclusive

By Bill Butterworth

20 April 15


Alps 4

Earthquakes heaved up these mountains and the earth still moves. Question is; does fracking really produce earthquakes that would not otherwise happen?

A special report on Sky News, 19 April 15, looked at a relationship between fracking and earthquakes in Texas. That report portrayed Professor Brian Stump, SMU University, Dallas, quietly saying that “there is undoubtedly a correlation between fracking and earthquakes”. The professor is an acknowledged expert seismologist. Not taking his statement seriously would be foolish.  However, what does it mean?

Many years ago, when I was a student learning about statistics, it was pointed out that there is a correlation between the divorce rate in the UK and the rate of importation of wooden rolling pins. The point is that it is not difficult to find sets of figures which have similar patterns and therefore appear to be related.  They might be.  They might not be.  What the word “correlation” does is to alert that there might be a relationship.  To establish that there is a real connection, there has to be a logic or understood mechanism and there has to be evidence. When I used to do a great deal of work as an expert witness in court, if I wanted the judge to believe me, then I had to state a clear opinion, give  a common sense explanation for that view and show evidence that is was true.  The essence of scientific thinking is to have a hypothesis, have a logical explanation, and be able to test to provide evidence.

Looking back at the first post in this blog, dated 4 Jan 15, I looked at fracking and earthquakes.  There is a logical explanation and it may be true.  It is there in that first blog.  I have gone back to it and thought about it.

Testing, however, is very difficult. I have no doubt that the professor and others are working on it.  They will take time.

Exploding fracking myths

  • Irresponsibility in the USA
  • Earthquakes
  • Radon, the radio-active gas
  • Drilling the top hole and laterals
  • Common sense, balanced view
  • Democracy, we all have a part to play

By Bill Butterworth

27 January 2015


P1000410

Additions are made to fluids used to assist deep drilling. This drilling operation was for a deep gas pipeline and the picture shows the addition of Bentonite to the drilling fluid. Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay; it is quite safe.

The truth about shale gas exploration and what is commonly called “fracking” is, of course, that there are potential environmental dangers. Some of them are potentially very significant. So, here is a list of questions I am asking myself, the industry and government. I’ll start with the ones I have asked myself and have answers I can accept and progress to the ones I still need assurances on.

Earthquakes. The science and common sense say this is so unlikely that it really is not a problem. (See this blog, 3 December 2014.)

Radon Gas. I have seen one television interview with a very aggressive and assertive individual who insisted that the industry pumped radio-active gas down the wells. My only response to such an individual is; “Ma’am, you do your cause no service by either being so stupid or just being dishonest.” My response to the news channel that screened it was they there were professionally irresponsible to their shame; we have a right to expect more. There is absolutely no chance of such a thing. There is a risk in drilling (for any purpose) in some geographical areas where Radon gas, which is radio-active, could be released from strata being drilled through. The gas is released to the surface, quite naturally, in some parts of the country, including Cornwall. There, it may collect in unventilated cellars. Frankly, in drilling, such possibilities will be considered at the stage of providing the Risk Assessment for the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive and there is very little risk to human health, wild life or the environment. Again, I have no problem here; the technology and risks are understood.

Drilling the vertical shaft. Historically in the USA, the vertical shaft was sometimes drilled using drilling fluids which were based on mineral oils and many undisclosed additives. There is little doubt that this has caused environmental damage. In my view, such materials should never have been allowed there and should not be so here. It is certainly true that the industry here and our own Environment Agency would exercise much tighter control. There is no doubt that safe fluids, even environmentally friendly fluids, can be used and are available. In this area, there is little doubt in my mind that the technology exists to be safe. (See this blog in a bit more detail, 4 December 2014.) We should and must insist on this and my contacts in regulation will, I am quite sure, do just that.

Drilling the laterals. Here, life does actually get more complicated. The technology is still developing and British technology is very much at the leading edge of safety – both environmentally and to humans. I discuss this aspect of exploration in this blog dated 5 December 2014.

Operating the system. During drilling the laterals and producing gas, it has been the common practice to use brine in quite large quantities and, historically in the USA, this has sometimes just been dumped in uncontrolled lagoons on the surface. That dumping is just not going to happen here. Again, new technology is helping to reduce the potential difficulties and I discuss some of these in this blog on various dates.

Conclusions. Anyone who says that shale gas is unqualified a bad thing, or unqualified a good thing, is either stupid or bigoted and probably both. Everything has a set of pluses as well as a set of minuses at one and the same time. The real question is one of a balanced, common sense view. The answers are never, never, black or white. Each one of us has a duty to make up our own mind, on the basis of facts and informed judgement (and we have a duty to demand facts) and tell our own MP what that view is. It is the job of the MP to discuss it in Parliament which will make a decision.

Fertilisers, “wastes” and energy

  • 21,000 kWh of electricity is the energy cost of one tonne of Nitrogen nutrient in mineral fertiliser.
  • Ancient humans were better at recycling wastes to land than the current generation.
  • We can produce biofuels from crops fertilised with processed wastes.

By Bill Butterworth

20 December 2014


 

The United Nations (UNESCO) sponsored a bit of research into energy cost of fertilisers (1) a few years back. The study was done on “typical” and therefore relatively efficient (compared with most of the rest of the world typical) manufacturing facilities. The conclusion on mineral Nitrogen fertiliser was that the energy cost of one tonne of Nitrogen nutrient (equivalent, for example, to three tonnes of ammonium nitrate) was 21,000 kW h. Yes, that is twenty one thousand kW hours, or “units” per tonne. Now, the FAO of the UN also predicts that global production of Nitrogen fertiliser in 2016 will be over £11 million tonnes. That will consume at least 231,000,000,000 kWh of electrical power. Most of that will have come from burning fossilised fuels.

Bearing in mind that it is possible to grow really good crops, safely and without mineral fertilisers, that is figure is insane. Repeat; insane.

It is quite possible to recycle a wide range of the wastes human activity produces, nearly all wastes human activity produces, to soil to grow crops safely. Composting outdoors, in vessel composting, AD – anaerobic digestion, TAD – thermophilic aerobic digestion, even just what farmers call direct incorporation (just plough or dig it in) – these are all ways of returning valuable nutrients to the soil. Yes, it is better if it is controlled by a qualified, trained in the art, experienced soil scientist – but it can and has been done.

Fertilisers from “wastes” has, since man first began to farm, been practiced safely and successfully. Like all things, it needs to be done sensibly but it can and does work. Further, recycling to land can produce food, fibres and energy. That energy can come from oil seed rape which is done in the UK to produce “vegetable oil” which can be used to drive a diesel engine. It could be other oil-bearing fruits and seeds such as lupins, oil palm and Jatropha.

Research by Land Network (2) shows that 1 hectare of land growing oil seed rape (see picture above)for either biodiesel or PPO (Pure Plant Oil to drive diesel engines), will produce enough energy to farm that 1 hectare and 9 more (which could be of wheat of whatever crop). In that research, 1 ha of oil seed rape produced enough energy to cultivate 9 ha and plant and harvest 90 tonnes of wheat. It was done using wastes as fertilisers. Nobody was caused to starve and there were no rain forest cut down.

(1) W. Gellings, Kelly E. Parmenter, (2004), ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN FERTILIZER PRODUCTION AND USE , in Efficient Use and Conservation of Energy, [Eds. Clark W. Gellings, and Kornelis Blok], in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Developed under the Auspices of the UNESCO, Eolss Publishers, Oxford ,UK, [http://www.eolss.net

(2) Butterworth B, Reversing global warming for profit. MX Publishing. London.,2010.

Safe shale gas and earthquakes

  • Earthquakes – what makes them trigger?
  • How big are the disturbances introduced by “fracking”?
  • Blackpool will have fewer, not more, discernable earthquakes if fracking goes into production

By Bill Butterworth

3 December 2014


Dried out cuttings heap

Not an earthquake but the dried-out cuttings from deep drilling using environmentally friendly technology. British safe technology is dramatically ahead of the rest of the world.

The news this week of Ineos announcing a very significant investment in UK shale gas exploration will, yet again, open discussion on shale gas.  Is there such a thing as safe shale and what does common sense tell us about where we are now?  You don’t have to be a qualified seismologist to understand something about fracking and earthquakes.

Consider a few billion tonnes of rock a mile or two below the surface and put some water under pressure into a crack in that rock.  Mostly it is not necessary but suppose also that you stick in a small explosive charge. What does common sense tell you is going to happen?

For those old enough to remember the cold war between the West and The Soviet Union, each testing bigger and bigger hydrogen bombs usually below the ground, they may remember that there was a fear that we might crack the surface of the earth’s crust. These weapons were hundreds, even thousands of times larger than the bombs dropped on Japan during the Second World War.

Now go back to fracking. The process uses water under pressure. Sometimes it uses small charges of explosives – we are talking kilos, not even tonnes of explosives against millions, or even billions, of tonnes of rock.  Blackpool has always had earthquakes. Millions, even trillions, of tonnes of earth’s crust is under tension and stress and, occasionally, it moves a bit.  Now, if that tension and stress was on the edge of moving and causing a detectable quake, what fracking might do is trigger the quake which would have happened anyway. More than that, what the injection of fluids are more likely to do is lubricate the movement which was about to happen anyway and make a series of short movements which would reduce the effect of the quake. Blackpool might well have less detectable earthquakes, not more.

There is an expression used sometimes by journalists: “If the truth is stretched far enough, it becomes a lie.”

Think about it.  Who is stretching the truth too far?