Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Fracking in East Devon: and in the US and in the EU

The issue of fracking is very heated in North America, as the lastest news reports:
Wait for research before allowing fracking, scientist says - Newfoundland & Labrador - CBC News
Fracking shakes up gas economics
Study: Natural gas industry can cut fracking emissions
California law to regulate fracking signed by governor | Reuters
Friction over 'fracking' grows in South
Center for a Stateless Society » Stop Construction! Tear Down Walls!

Meanwhile, this video has been very popular on YouTube:

Fracking: The Music Video - ProPublica
Fracking - ProPublica
The Fracking Song (My Water's On Fire Tonight) - YouTube

The European Union is considering measures similar to those passed in California:
EU Shale Gas: Mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments Favoured
Shale gas: member states need robust rules on fracking
Natural Gas Europe - Environment - News
South West Green Party | Key vote on fracking in European Parliament

The South-West's MEP is more positive about shale gas:

In my opinion: Shale gas offers opportunity to cut bills and boost jobs

Wednesday, May 01, 2013
In his State of the Union address to the nation, President Obama reassured the American people that they would have an energy-secure future. He informed them it was intended to go "hell for leather" in the exploitation of national shale gas resources which would guarantee US energy security for decades to come and help create 600,000 new jobs. Already production of shale gas has enabled the USA to cut all imports of liquefied natural gas, particularly from the Middle East. It is estimated that shale gas will meet half of USA gas demands within 15 to 20 years.
Shale gas is to be found in underground reservoirs extending for thousands of square kilometres throughout the world. There are estimated to be worldwide reserves of shale gas, equivalent to 3 trillion barrels of oil. According to the International Energy Agency, based on current demand, there are only 60 years of worldwide reserves of natural gas. However, the availability of shale gas will extend gas reserves to more than 250 years.
The potential of shale gas has been known for some time but it is only in recent years that technological improvements used in its extraction have made it economically viable.
It emits 30% less carbon than oil and 60% less than coal when used for power generation and is a much cheaper alternative to wind and solar power which currently require considerable consumer subsidies.
In Britain, test drilling has identified a huge reserve of recoverable shale gas in North West England. Preliminary results have been rewarding but the hydraulic fracturing – "fracking" – process used to unlock the gas from shale rock has alarmed environmental groups who warn that it will cause earthquakes, despite research to the contrary carried out at Durham University Energy Institute. Quadrilla Resources Ltd has been granted a license to carry out exploration throughout the 1,200 sq km of the Bowland Basin in Lancashire which, they assess, holds at least 200 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas reserves. They intend to seek Lancashire County Council approval to "frack" for gas at a site at Lytham St Anne's, near Blackpool.
The success of shale gas extraction in the USA over the past two years has almost halved the price of gas, thus encouraging investment in new businesses and manufacturing which has contributed to a considerable reduction in unemployment. Britain, which is dependent upon costly gas imports and is concerned about the security of its energy supply, has need for a similar shale gas boom to stimulate the economy and get the country back to work. Undoubtedly green energy campaigners, who over recent decades have pressured our government into taking the expensive road to a low carbon green economy, will not be happy but those of us who wince every time the fuel bill falls through the letter box will rejoice.
A Devon Councillor poses other questions:

“Fracking” – Coming to Devon?

You may have heard of “fracking”. But what is it? and why should we be worried about it?
Our present economic system is addicted to fossil fuels but we are running out fast. As a result we are turning to more and more extreme measures to feed our habit. Welcome to the world of extreme energyTar SandsMountain Top RemovalDeep Water Drilling,Coal Bed Methane and Shale Gas are all symptoms of this scramble to suck the last and most difficult to reach drops out of our planet.
In the UK a new method of Shale Gas extraction method called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is being trialled in Blackpool. Fracking has already become wide-spread in the United States.

What is fracking?

Hydraulic Fracturing is a method used to free gas trapped in rock (that would usually be inaccessible) by cracking the rock using a pressurised fluid. Wells are drilled and the fracking fluid injected into them under high pressure to crack the rock. The fracking fluid consists of water, sand and a lot of chemicals. Millions of gallons of water are used to frack a well.

Why is fracking a problem?

In the vicinity where fracking takes place the largest worries are water contamination. Fracking uses huge amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals, a large fraction of which are never recovered. The fracking fluid also leaches chemicals like arsenic out of the rocks when it is used making it even more toxic and so the fluid that is recovered becomes a big disposal problem. Even more worryingly the fracking fluid can also leach radioactive elements out of the rocks causing radioactive contamination as well. Fracking in the United States has already resulted in numerous spills of these fluids.
In addition fracking has been shown to result in the contamination of water tables with methane. In some cases in the United States this has resulted in people being able to set the water coming out of their taps on fire. Fracking also appears to trigger earthquakes and the first test well in the UK appears to have caused two earthquakes.
Fracking, like other forms of extreme energy (e.g. Tar Sands), is very carbon intensive. You use a lot of energy (and therefore emit a lot of carbon dioxide) in order to get a bit more energy back. In the case of fracking this is because you have to drill a lot wells, since each one only produces gas for only a short while. Fracking has the additional problem that the natural gas (methane) that it is trying to extract is a stronger greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide emitted by burning it and the method results in significant amounts of methane leaking directly into the atmosphere (fugitive emissions).
What has happened so far in the UK?
So far there is only one test well using hydraulic fracturing to access shale gas in the UK. Cuadrilla Resources has drilled Preese Hall 1 well five miles east of Blackpool. However following the outcry over two earthquakes in the vicinity of the drilling operation in the space of two months, the operation has been apparently temporarily suspended. Cuadrilla have drilled (but not yet fracked) a second well nearby and are in the process of moving their drilling to a third site. France, the states of New York and New Jersey, the Canadian province of Quebec and the Swiss canton of Fribourg have all recently banned fracking. Fracking needs to be banned in the UK too.
Under the Onshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round, the government have disclosed the areas likely to be developed for fracking.
This includes the eastern part of Devon (including south-east Devon), where licences might be expected at any time!!.
Why not send a letter to your local County Councillor letting them know what you think about fracking.  Click on this link   http://www.writetothem.com/
Jackie Brodie | “Fracking” – Coming to Devon?

In East Devon, there are recent developments:

> The District Council's house magazine from July notes the loss of local powers:

 Local councils lose powers to oppose fracking:
Local communities are set to lose control over key environmental decisions affecting  whether the controversial gas extraction technique of fracking can go ahead in their area. 
Under new planning guidelines, councils will no longer be able to investigate issues such as  seismic activity, flaring and venting as well as the potential impact on ground water suppliers before granting planning permission for new fracking wells. Instead the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive will take responsibility for regulation.

> The East Devon AONB Consultation Draft Management Strategy is out to consultation until 10th October, and mentions 'new technologies':

Trends and Forces for change:
New technologies and techniques for extracting energy may well place demands on the landscape and geology of the AONB in the future. eg: fracking.
AONB Management Plan/AONB Strategy no image_Layout 1.pdf

A campaign has started in East Devon to collect signatures:

We call on the local council to reject all fracking applications.

Why is this important?

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking’, is a way of extracting oil and/or gas. Water, sand and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into underground rocks to shatter them. This releases the gas/oil which can be collected.
But investing in carbon-intensive fossil fuels is a distraction from the need to decarbonise our electricity supply.
And it's hazardous. Studies show that fracking pollutes water supplies (with arsenic and lead), causes earthquakes, and spoils local communities. 
And there are nightmare stories coming form the States. 
Like in the town of Dimock, PA, residents have reported their water turning so brown that it stains crockery. Their water was later found to contain methane, and a host of toxic chemicals.
We call on the council to preserve the quality of life of its residents, and reject all planning applications for fracking.
Stop Fracking in East Devon | Campaigns by You

See also: Futures Forum: Fracking: pros and cons
Futures Forum: Fracking in East Devon?

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