Tag Archives: shale gas

shale-gas agricultural-sprays

Dolly Parton, a woman of great wisdom, said “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”. Look again at the picture and the electricity pole. Our lives depend, at least to some degree, on power supply. Without it , we die. Energy and food supplies don’t just happen; there are risks and the worst risk is to do nothing. The real question is whether we can do things with professional standards.


In the 24th June issue of New Scientist, a comment column observed “In this post-truth world …….. the power of facts is in retreat from public discourse”.

This is a potentially shattering observation in terms of not just the drowning of common sense but, quite likely, of the survival of the human race. Now, more than ever, science has to sell itself against attack by vested interests using social media.  Let us look as some examples.

  1. “Agricultural spay chemicals are dangerous and should never be used.”  It is true that they are dangerous and so is starvation.  Could we have a balanced, fact-based discussion?
  2. “Shale gas exploration is dangerous and will damage the environment and threaten our children’s health.” It is certainly true that shale gas exploration has risks and when we run out of energy to heat people’s homes, people will die. Could we have a balanced, fact-based discussion?

Why is it that we as a society vote into power politicians who distort the truth?  Why is it that we do not educate the next generation to NOT allow social media to distort the truth about events of every day?  Science is, or should be, fact-based common sense.  So, all scientists, do not distort the truth; tell it how it is.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd., J24 uly 17

Diesels and clean burn

It will take several human generations to move from internal combustion engines to electric drive. However, we could change maybe 90% of such engines to clean-burn shale gas in, say, 20 years.

All this fuss about diesel fumes if stretching the truth a bit too far.  Firstly, smoking and obesity are far greater evils, in terms of human health and death.  Secondly, modern, Euro 6 diesels do have more particulates in their emissions than latest design petrol engines but not much more and they produce around half the Carbon dioxide per mile.   Thirdly, never mind cars, what about trucks?  Go electric?  How long would it take to change 13 million cars over to electric drive? In any case, where do you think the electricity comes from?

There is a fast, clean alternative. It creates UK jobs and dramatically reduces imports.  Shale gas is a clean burn.

Land Research Ltd  23 April 17

P.S. “Survival – Sustainable Energy, Wastes, Shale Gas and The Land” by Bill Butterworth, published by Land Research, is available in paperback from good bookshops or Amazon on the web as paperback (at around £10) or electronic version (at only £2.46) for computer or Kindle. For the next couple of Sundays, it can be downloaded free at Kindle.

Better than the alternatives

Bentonite dispensing

Adding “Bentonite” to a drilling fluid. Bentonite is a natural clay which, if you ate much, would make you constipated but it is not toxic.

The ASA, the Advertising Standards Authority, ruled in Sept 16 that the Friends of the Earth (FOE) misled the public in a leaflet which claimed fracking can cause cancer. Despite this judgement, it is certainly true that there needs to be a watchdog on everything the shale gas industry does.  Fortunately we have one – it is called the Environment Agency (EA).  Now, it is clear that in this instance, and I have no doubt in many other of their campaigns, the FOE acted to promote their own interests in a way which was not based on evidence, in short, they actively fell short of honesty. It is also true that while there are some failings in the EA as a watchdog, it is one of the most precautionary regulators in the world.

There is another point to this and that is that the UK is not the USA and the British do have the best and safest technology in the world. Just to demonstrate, one of the British-designed drilling fluids is not toxic and you or I (I have offered) could drink it.  I would not advise drinking too much because the clay in it would cause constipation – but it would not poison the drinker.

For those who are concerned about shale, look at the facts and try to make an honest, evidence-based view. Will you conclude that shale gas is without fault or difficulties?  You would be foolish.  However, you might conclude that UK-produced shale gas is a lot better for the environment and ourselves than any and all of the alternatives currently available.  And we really do need more energy and we need it now.  Quite often in life, the choice is as with the politicians we vote for – maybe one might not wish to vote for shale gas but actually vote against the alternatives.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 14 January 2017

Survival! – free download


“Survival – Sustainable Energy, Wastes, Shale Gas and The Land” is available for free download for the next 5 Sundays starting 15 Jan.

According to UN sponsored research, I tonne of N nutrient, made in a modern, efficient USA fertiliser factory, typically takes 21,000 (yes, twenty one thousand) kWh to manufacture and deliver to farm. Yet, we lose around half to groundwater with rain or irrigation. This will dramatically affect how we farm.  Part of the answer is to recycle waste to farm land.  How to do this safely, how shale gas will affect the land, how sustainable energy sources can help farming are all reviewed in the book.  All these and how the global population  will reach crisis, and when, can be downloaded for free on the Sundays 15, 22 and 29 Jan, and 5 and 12 Feb.  Control and Click here  Survival” by Bill Butterworth Amazon.

Dial 105

Euope ast might 2

Will the lights go out? What happens if they do?

There is an advertisement on at least one commercial radio station inviting us to dial 105 if we have a power cut. This implies that not only does the establishment know we are on the edge of power cuts on a large scale but they want us to prepare for it.  Now, I have colleagues who know far more about the national grid power supply than I do and they are quite certain that we are close to significant power cuts and, if all the relevant strains come on at once in a cold spell, then we may get a national shut down.  If we do, they some will be off for days rather than hours.  It will be inconvenient for most of us, will be very expensive for industry and cost lives.

Whatever we ought to do in terms of renewable power, the truth is that the quickest way, and lowest cost, to secure our power supply is to build gas-fired power stations. Other than nuclear (of which many of us have some reservations), gas is an almost totally clean burn. We area standing on enormous reserves of gas.  What does common sense tell us?

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 1 January 2017

Safe Shale ?


The lights WILL go out if we do not hurry up and do something.

Safe Shale 1; Integrity of the drill way.

I frequently get asked about the safety of shale gas exploration and its effect on land, groundwater and pollution. Well, here is a short discussion on drilling the top hole.

The vertical shaft of a drill down to shale gas is quite likely to be a kilometer, maybe two, or (in old money) a mile or so.  Maybe more. That, in itself, is not that much of a new thing.  Deep drilling for all sorts of reasons (such as geothermal drilling to bring “free” hot water to heat homes, offices and shops) has been going on, even deeper,  for a long time. (And geothermal drilling is often “fracked” and yet nobody complains about that!) What is different about drilling for shale gas is that when the vertical shaft has got to the depth that the geologist thinks is right, the drill turns, in a giant “J” shape, from being vertical to horizontal.  In the horizontal bit, the engineers want the hole to leak – inwards to collect the gas!

Common sense tells us that whatever the pollution risks are of leakage from a mile or so down back to the surface, they are very, very small.  In practice, it just is not going to happen for one very simple reason.  If it was going to happen, it would have done so already during the last few hundred, million years.

That still leaves the worry about the integrity of the vertical shaft. That certainly might travel through strata near the surface which might leak back up to the top, certainly it might drill through aquifers which might be used for human consumption; leakage certainly might cause pollution.  How likely is that “might” and can it be controlled?

Leakage of the vertical shaft after construction is known but it is rare.  After all, sinking just the vertical shaft is quite likely to cost over £10 million in the UK and, therefore, the investors and engineers are going to be quite careful.  The way of covering this risk is to pressure test the vertical shaft before turning to the horizontal drilling.  If it leaks, abandon it. In the UK. that is inflicted, independently, by law.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 27 December 16




Dig for Victory


Times have changed but the need for survival in a changing world has not. The country needs a stable farming industry and that may become critical sooner rather than later.

Just suppose we might, quite shortly, need to produce more food, a lot more food, at home in the UK?  Why ask?  Well, try taking a look at the Guardian article by Paul Mason; “The Soviet Union collapsed overnight. Don’t assume western democracy will last forever”.  There is certainly a shift of power going on at present with “democratic” power shifting from the establishment to a “populist” move against globalisation and in the direction of protectionist nationalism. As that happens, we may not be able to trade in the established way and that includes food imports. It would be wise, as we approach Brexit, to stop building on good agricultural land and make sure agriculture is in good heart.  Remember “Dig for Victory”?  We might need that sooner rather than later and that might go for shale gas, steel, car manufacture, fashion, the pop industry and everything else we could make here.


Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 13 December 16