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Topic Title: E&T magazine - Debate - Anyone for fracking?
Topic Summary: Fracking is one of the best things to happen to onshore gas exploration for a century
Created On: 23 January 2013 11:16 AM
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 23 January 2013 11:16 AM
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jpwilson

Posts: 68
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For:
Fracking is one of the best things to happen to onshore gas exploration for a century

Against:
Fracking is dangerous to the environment and throws good energy after bad

The argument for:
Onshore oil and gas exploration is the best, most transformative energy story since the transition from coal to oil a century ago. This is because what we are getting is a far cleaner and more economic source of energy than its predecessors or competitors. Even though gas is a fossil fuel in replacing coal for electricity - which is the global goal - it means that we can reduce CO2 emissions by more than 50 per cent. It is also a secure source of energy because it is globally ubiquitous.

The argument against:
Unlike any other resources, energy sources by definition have to produce more energy than is used in extracting them, otherwise they are an energy sink. Despite public perception, our present technology is largely a process of harnessing large amounts of surplus energy to do things that could not be done otherwise. Throwing more energy at a problem may have been the easy default solution for the brief age of energy abundance we have experienced, but it is a stupid option in the present circumstances.
 23 January 2013 04:48 PM
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Daffarn

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According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing fracking process causes multiple fractures in the underlying rock. This is to allow the gas or oil to escape to the well heads. But what is the long term impact for the underlying stability of the rock, and could the induced fractures extend to the surface allowing uncontroled escape of gas etc? Engineering takes us to the unknown, that why we do it, but sometimes the unknown risk is too great.
 24 January 2013 03:13 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Daffarn, the US have safely carried out over 100,000 fracks since the 1960's with no serious environmental harm. All industrial processes carry some risk and have some impact on the environment, whether it be a coal mine, a nuclear power station or a wind farm. With sensible regulation these risks and impacts can be minimised. The remaining risks and impacts then need to be weighed against the useful outputs of the process. In the case of shale gas, the advantages vastly outweigh any disadvantages. Bear in mind that one shale well can produce more power than 500 x 2MW windturbines, and unlike wind energy, gas can be easily stored, transported via the existing gas network, and used as and when required. The shale gas revolution has already HALVED US domestic gas prices - and looks likely to make the US energy independent within the decade. We could use some of those benefits in the UK.

I find it disappointing that, at the time of writing, 60% of respondents see shale as a bad thing. It's important to remember that shale gas is very unwelcome news for the incumbent energy companies - such as Centrica, Gazprom, BP, EDF who have extensive investments in more expensive forms of generation which are being undercut by cheap shale gas. As a result there is no shortage of backing for anti-shale groups to spread scaremongering propaganda ( witness the infamous flaming tap sequence is Josh fox's 'Gasland' film [a phenomena well known in that town long before fracking began - due to natural gas seeps] ).

Doubtless there are also many who frequent these boards who work in the wind & solar industries - and these people will certainly not welcome the shale revolution. But on balance, the discovery of an abundant cheap source of energy has got to be a good thing for the UK economy overall. Even if some competing energy companies suffer job losses as a result. At the end of day, everything requires energy, and if energy can be produced more cheaply everyone benefits.
 24 January 2013 12:47 PM
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ectophile

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Just for once, I agree with Ipayyoursalary, though probably not for the same reasons.

I try to be green, but there's no magic wand we can wave to produce a carbon-neutral World in the short term. In the meantime, natural gas is the least polluting fossil fuel.

Looking at it from a UK perspective:-
1. We use a lot of gas, and that's not going to stop any time soon. Many of us (myself included) have gas central heating, and much of our electricity comes from gas.
2. We are running out of North Sea gas, so we are importing ever more gas.
3. Importing gas is bad for our balance of payments.
4. The countries supplying our gas aren't always our allies.
5. In an insecure World, relying on imported energy for our whole economy isn't wise.
6. The gas is down there. Whether we use out own, or import it, makes no difference to global CO2 levels.

There's precious little evidence that deep fracking causes any problems at the surface. So it makes sense to start with the deeper seams, until we have enough experience to look at the shallower ones.

-------------------------
S P Barker BSc PhD MIET
 24 January 2013 03:16 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Yes indeed Dr Barker: whether you're worried about paying your energy bills, or worried about emitting harmless plant-fertilising CO2, shale gas is very good news. It will reduce both.
 25 January 2013 09:06 AM
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944SE

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When I was a young engineer I used to do a lot of work in and around the oil and Pet/Chem industry in Grangemouth. The reason why that industry is there was because of guys like "Parafin " Young who had exploited the finding of shale oil, I think around neighbouring Bathgate. I can clearly remeber the "bings" of red waste that were all around and which were subsequently dismantled to build the M90and M80 motorways
Is there shale gas where there used to be oil, and is there oil where they are finding gas?
Regards 944SE
 27 January 2013 04:07 PM
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HazelGroveWolf

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Isn't energy extraction by any means a risky business? Shale gas has to be lower risk than coal extraction for example.
It seems to me that there is a significant political body that wants to deny access to abundant energy. I'm clearly not averse to efficiency and new technologies but I have issues with nonsensical taxation for 'green engineering'.
The greens and politicians need to butt out of the engineering.

Regards

Dave Nunn BSc MIET

Edited: 28 January 2013 at 12:12 AM by HazelGroveWolf
 11 February 2013 08:22 AM
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youmike

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I suggest that it's not fracking per se that is the bad thing: it's the combination of politicians and big oil that will between them set up the rules of the game that I find alarming.

One of the rules that is vitally necessary is how to pay for the infrastructural costs which necessarily happen as a result of such activities. In South Africa, where I live, fracking is envisaged for a sparsely populated semi-desert area. It will be necessary to import water - at what cost to the roads? Once used, how will that water be treated to make it usable? The oil companies just do not say. Finally, a part of the target area is set aside for the square kilometer array. Can we trust our politicians to protect it adequately? I doubt it.

A final thought - I see no suggestion that our approach should be "Use Less" rather than "Find More". What legacy does such a mindset leave to our children and grandchildren?
 11 February 2013 03:40 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: youmike
I suggest that it's not fracking per se that is the bad thing: it's the combination of politicians and big oil that I find alarming.

Hi Mike, I think you'll find 'Big Oil' in the form of BP, Shell, Gazprom and Centrica are largely against cheap shale gas since it will undercut their investments in more expensive energy sources.

One of the rules that is vitally necessary is how to pay for the infrastructural costs which necessarily happen as a result of such activities.

In the UK, shale infrastructure costs are negligible and self-financing because the fields are already close to existing gas pipelines so can easily be plumbed into the grid. Shale gas is the only energy industry offering to pay money into the exchequer rather and expecting subsidies and handouts from the taxpayer.

It will be necessary to import water - at what cost to the roads? Once used, how will that water be treated to make it usable? The oil companies just do not say.

I think you'll find all these issues are described at length in any planning application for a shale well. At least they are in the US and UK. Just like any other industrial process that requires water.

A final thought - I see no suggestion that our approach should be "Use Less" rather than "Find More". What legacy does such a mindset leave to our children and grandchildren?

The same legacy the industrial revolution left us: Huge weath, great improvements in health and lifestyle, a massive increase in leisure time and reduction in hours of labour, the liberation of housewives from the drudgery of household chores, and a massive increase in the area of protected forests and wilderness in national parks and nature reserves. All thanks to fossil fuels.

Funny I often hear environmentalists trot out this bogus 'think of the grandchildren' argument, but they seem to have no problem in saddling the grandchildren with massive national debts caused by huge government overspending on various social programs and subsidies for inefficient energy sources.
 11 February 2013 04:37 PM
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youmike

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First, let me emphasize that I AM NOT an "Environmentalist". I accept that fracking is a necessary activity, but I do have severe reservations about the will of politicians (particularly those in South Africa) to put adequate controls in place. South Africa is not alone with this concern. I have seen similar cautions about the New Zealand risk, underlined in this case by the failure of regulators to put in place a framework appropriate to Pike River. I take your comments about ease of connection to the UK infrastructure. The South African situation is completely different, because of the need to move millions of litres of water hundreds of kilometers by road into a semi-desert and later to manage it in such a way that it will not contaminate anything. In South Africa, availability of water generally is a ticking time-bomb. Looking at how Shell went about their activities in Ogoniland, Nigeria, I think there is reason to be skeptical. Regarding "Use Less", it is a fact that we are using a finite resource (fossil fuel) more quickly than it can be replaced. Yes, we have to find ways of using renewable sources of energy. In doing this, we have to make sure that the life cycle cost of such sources is accurately reflected in the cost to all consumers, both domestic and industrial. We also have to improve the way in which we use nuclear fuel, I suggest. I don't see politicians working very hard on these issues, particularly in South Africa. A comment on your interpretation of "legacy". Yes, the Industrial Revolution brought a small section of the world population wealth, which was sustained by the transition from coal to oil. The world population has grown exponentially and 21st century communications have ensured that all humans know about what such privilege has brought and wants its share. I say again that it is unsustainable.

Edited: 11 February 2013 at 04:45 PM by youmike
 11 February 2013 08:38 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: youmike
Yes, the Industrial Revolution brought a small section of the world population wealth

You are very much mistaken. It bought a huge increase in health and wealth to the majority of the world population. See any life expectancy or GDP chart for 99% of nations for proof of this.

The world population has grown exponentially...

and yet, thanks to modern farming, food production exceeds demand and uses less land than ever.

...and 21st century communications have ensured that all humans know about what such privilege has brought and wants its share. I say again that it is unsustainable.

Mike, according to this article in the Telegraph more than half of South Africa's children live in poverty.

"The Unicef report found that 1.4 million children live in homes that rely on often dirty streams for drinking water, 1.5 million have no flushing lavatories and 1.7 million live in shacks, with no proper bedding, cooking or washing facilities."

You think those kids living and dying in filth and squalor care whether you think their aspirations are "sustainable" or not? When hundreds of years worth of the cheap energy they so desperately need lies right beneath their feet? I see no reason why every South African child cannot enjoy as good a standard of living as the richest American. Their continent has some of the World's greatest natural resources. The only thing standing in their way is a corrupt government and a bunch of misanthropic malthusian environmentalists. Hopefully they'll give both the boot soon.
 19 February 2013 11:57 PM
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HazelGroveWolf

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Test. Climate change thread seems to not accept new posts and from this it seems thread specific.
 20 February 2013 04:39 PM
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dvaidr

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We don't know enough about it in my opinion.

I read in one of the UK paper's yesterday that the Germans has successfully managed to produce 22GW/h electricity from solar power stations. Why can't the British follow suit? There was a time when we had good engineering in the UK.
 20 February 2013 06:45 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: dvaidr
We don't know enough about [fracking] in my opinion.

They've been using fracking in the oil industry for decades with an excellent safety record. US fracking has halved domestic gas prices in 3 years. What more do you need to know?

There was a time when we had good engineering in the UK.

Yes. What does good engineering tell us about a power source that fails whenever the sun sets? Fails when it's cloudy? Fails during the winter months when days are short and dull? Fails when the panels are covered in snow? Good engineering tells us that such an intermittent unreliable source is not suitable for powering a modern economy.

As for the green obsessed Germans: Germany's green suicide will cost taxpayers €1Trillion
One quarter of German household energy bills now stem directly from renewable subsidies
 23 February 2013 06:48 PM
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ReSusTech

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Ipayyoursalary 20Feb13 wrote: "What does good engineering tell us about a power source that fails whenever the sun sets? Fails when it's cloudy? Fails during the winter months when days are short and dull? Fails when the panels are covered in snow? Good engineering tells us that such an intermittent unreliable source is not suitable for powering a modern economy."


It (solar) may not be suitable for 'powering' a modern economy but it could provide a good 'energy' source.

First we need to differentiate between power & energy. Power represents our instantaneous requirements of energy and clearly solar, wind etc. cannot provide us with 24/7 power. Energy on the other hand is accumulated over time (about 1TWh/day for the UK electricity requiremnts) and solar, wind etc. could probably supply a significant proportion of this if we could use the energy only when it was available, which clearly we can't.

Now 'good engineering' tells us we have a problem to solve, a mismatch between supply and demand and 'good engineering' can also tell us that if we could devise an energy storage mechanism that was; carbon neutral, could store grid scale quantities (multi TWh) of energy, had quick demand response, had long term (seasonal) storage life and was easy and cheap to store, then intermittent RE (Renewable Energy) sources could be the energy source of choice. The interesting thing is that we already have the technologies to do this, although I do still have some uncertainties over the 'cheap' attribute and some of the technologies are some way from full commercialisation yet, much like CCS!. In a nutshell the solution is 'Green Coal' or synthetically produced clean carbon, and by the way I'm not referring to biomass. I'll leave you to ponder this concept for now as I have other things to attend to.

Although I'm not convinced that fracking is a good thing the answer to the question "Extraction of natural gas by fracking is good news for energy needs" has to be Yes. However; if you add 'in the context of providing cleaner electricity' then the answer is almost certainly No, as it diverts resources away from the true clean alternatives, including nuclear, although I'm not a particular fan of this either.

Nick Cook

Edited: 23 February 2013 at 11:05 PM by ReSusTech
 24 February 2013 01:47 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: dvaidr
There was a time when we had good engineering in the UK.

What is good engineering, one thing which is done which is considered to be good engineering or else 1000 things which are done which are considered to be good engineering?

There is a lot of good engineering in UK.

Regards.
 24 February 2013 02:01 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: ReSusTech
It (solar) may not be suitable for 'powering' a modern economy but it could provide a good 'energy' source.

It already does and we are alive because of it.

Fracking is just a fracking good idea at the moment. It does not have to be considered a solution for all time, but rather it buys us time and this will provide the time for other technologies to be developed.

Regards.
 24 February 2013 06:04 PM
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HazelGroveWolf

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No one seems to look at short term imperitives.Energy gap

Can any of you Electrical bods shed some light? I only know how to use it efficiently not generate it efficiently.
Any sensible answers I can guarantee will not have been tainted by the green politics fashion.

Edited: 24 February 2013 at 06:13 PM by HazelGroveWolf
 27 February 2013 11:28 PM
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ReSusTech

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westonpa 02:01 PM

I generally agree with your comments, but we do need to work towards making 'the moment' as short as possible.

HazelGroveWolf

Efficiency - some thoughts

Efficient generation is only part of the solution, I presume you want it cheap (current price) but do you mind if it's green or black, how efficient and how soon?

It also depends on how you define efficiency. For example, large wind turbines probably achieve about 50% conversion from wind energy to electricity at optimum wind speed but their typical/average output is only about a third of their rating, i.e. a 3MW turbine gives about 1MW average, which strictly speaking is utilisation factor.

If you're looking for most efficient use of conventional fuels then the DCFC (Direct Carbon Fuel Cell) wins hands down with about 80% achievable, (higher in combined cycle configuration,) from carbon, e.g. coal. The DCFC also has carbon capture built in, the waste stream is pure CO2. The main problem with DCFC is that it is not commercially available yet, although it probably would be if we had not privatised our energy industries and lost most of our speculative R&D that used to be done.
If you are looking for overall energy efficiency then CHP may be the answer. A domestic fuel cell based CHP unit can achieve 80% to 90% efficiency if all the available heat is used effectively and if powered by biogas or biomethane then it could be carbon zero too. This is a good case for AD (anaerobic digestion) with grid injection instead if incineration for our waste.
 02 March 2013 12:58 AM
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HazelGroveWolf

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Originally posted by: ReSusTech

westonpa 02:01 PM



I generally agree with your comments, but we do need to work towards making 'the moment' as short as possible.



HazelGroveWolf



Efficiency - some thoughts



Efficient generation is only part of the solution, I presume you want it cheap (current price) but do you mind if it's green or black, how efficient and how soon?



It also depends on how you define efficiency. For example, large wind turbines probably achieve about 50% conversion from wind energy to electricity at optimum wind speed but their typical/average output is only about a third of their rating, i.e. a 3MW turbine gives about 1MW average, which strictly speaking is utilisation factor.



If you're looking for most efficient use of conventional fuels then the DCFC (Direct Carbon Fuel Cell) wins hands down with about 80% achievable, (higher in combined cycle configuration,) from carbon, e.g. coal. The DCFC also has carbon capture built in, the waste stream is pure CO2. The main problem with DCFC is that it is not commercially available yet, although it probably would be if we had not privatised our energy industries and lost most of our speculative R&D that used to be done.

If you are looking for overall energy efficiency then CHP may be the answer. A domestic fuel cell based CHP unit can achieve 80% to 90% efficiency if all the available heat is used effectively and if powered by biogas or biomethane then it could be carbon zero too. This is a good case for AD (anaerobic digestion) with grid injection instead if incineration for our waste.


Wind is horribly inefficient, you cannot control it and it can never contribute meaningfully to the grid unless you swamp the country with turbines. We have yet to touch on transmission and other infrastructure costs. These points also imply backup conventional energy generating plant.
I've no objection to meaningful low pollution energy generating plant but it has to lay claim to that title. The physics has to make sense. I agree that government funding should be directed to real solutions rather than reinforcement of established meme.
Bulk electricity generation efficiency needs a leg up and that probably means gas in the short to medium term i.e. fracking. Remember electricity represents a small but significant portion of the energy mix. The rest includes direct burn of gas for heating and direct burn in internal combution engines belonging to multi-modal transport, both of which have plenty of scope for improvement.
Have you ever considered the environmental impacts of rare-earth metal extraction in China for the stators in wind turbines? It is simply silly to expect or even require an international treaty on energy policy.
IET » Energy » E&T magazine - Debate - Anyone for fracking?

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