Andrew Orlowski: Frack me! UK shale gas bonanza ‘bigger than North Sea oil’

Posted: December 14, 2012 by tallbloke in alarmism, Carbon cycle, Earthquakes, Energy, humour, Legal, Measurement, media, Shale gas

Here’s an entertaining and informative piece from the Register’s Andrew Orlowski on the new dash for shale gas:

Frack me! UK shale gas bonanza ‘bigger than North Sea oil’
Andrew Orlowski – Dec 14 2012

Blackpools-Shale-Gas-Dril-007The government has given the go-ahead for further exploration of the UK’s shale gas reserves. Independent surveys suggest these reserves may yield more energy for the nation than North Sea oil.

The shale gas will be collected using induced hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking”, which splits rocks thousands of feet below ground using high-pressure liquid.

This is a defeat for environmentalist activists and the powerful renewables lobby – but they have a valuable consolation prize few have noticed. Under the proposed regulatory regime, during the fracking process any tremors that measure 0.5 or higher on the Richter scale may trigger an automatic halt to operations under a “traffic light” scheme outlined by the Lib Dem energy minister Ed Davey.

What does this mean? Well, tremors below magnitude 3.0 are considered to be barely noticeable, and bear in mind that the Richter scale is logarithmic: the energy released by a tremor of magnitude 0.5 is equivalent to the energy released by a large hand grenade.

But since the “epicentre” is thousands of feet below the surface, a 0.5 event escapes the detection of all but the most sensitive seismic monitoring equipment.

Yet one 0.5 event alone will be enough to halt fracking and it can only be restarted by the minister. Which, in practice, means it’s in the hand of the fanatically pro-wind Whitehall bureaucrats at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

By contrast, the UK consortium Cuadrilla – which halted exploratory fracking near Blackpool in early 2011 after causing two minor earthquakes – uses the German safety standard, one of the world’s more conservative standards. This sets the maximum permissible tremor magnitude at 2.6 and recommends mitigation measures if seismic activity exceeds magnitude 1.7 – after which the drillers halt water injection and reduce the pressure on the shale.

Davey admitted that the 0.5 red-light threshold is “far below a perceptible surface event, but larger than the expected level generated by the fracturing of the rock”, which he considers “an appropriately precautionary approach”. But he admitted: “We received representations in our consultation that this is too cautious.”

Read the rest of the article at el Reg:

  1. adolfogiurfa says:

    Ponder this: Methane it is non-polar, if replaced by water,etc. polar media, what the consequences could be?

  2. mitigatedsceptic says:

    This is a blatant con trick by those who profit (monetarily or morally) from renewables. Tremors of <1.5 happen all the time in many parts of the country. This regulation will in effect put stop to fracking in UK. No one in his right mind would invest a penny in fracking with this sanction hanging over it. Bye bye fracking. Here come the blackouts!

  3. michael hart says:

    “Yet one 0.5 event alone will be enough to halt fracking and it can only be restarted by the minister. Which, in practice, means it’s in the hand of the fanatically pro-wind Whitehall bureaucrats at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.”

    It does strike me as extraordinarily suspicious to have that caveat in there. There are many differing interpretations that could be put on this.
    E.g. The fracking company will have to keep the politicians sweet. So how might they do that? As people frequently point out, hydrocarbon energy is a profitable business: Government treasuries take lots and lots of revenue from it. Wind-power is the opposite.

    So hopefully even corrupt politicians will see more sense in having a profitable industry they could extort money from. And the non-corrupt politicians would still like revenue to spend on schools, hospitals, aircraft-carriers etc.

    Harrabin at the BBC (of course) attempted the every-silver-lining-has-a-cloud approach, quoting the Committee on Climate Change (who may, or may not, be corrupt) warning that
    “…relying heavily on gas for future electricity supplies would leave households vulnerable to higher bills in the long run as the price of gas on the international market is volatile.” Which sounds to me like stating “cheaper gas will make gas more expensive.”

  4. oldbrew says:

    DECC estimates for the price of gas per therm in 2015 currently range from 33-85p (using 3 scenarios). In other words they have no more idea than anyone else.

  5. mitigatedsceptic says:

    No green household should be without a calibrated seismometer. DIY or buy from the internet. As soon as anyone tries to drill for fracking near you, set it up and start complaining. >0.2 Richter is breached by almost continuous noise and it should take very little effort to get the project stopped. Just don’t make any recordings before the drilling starts – then you can say that there were no readings until the drilling started!

  6. michael hart says:

    How close to a windmill do you have to place one to record the same level of vibration?

  7. Peter Miller says:

    This is a perfect example of how loony the Lib Dems are on anything to do with climate – a limit of a 0.5 seismic event is absolutely insane. Even if it was a 3.5 seismic event – a thousand times more powerful – most people would not even notice it.

    Fracking can clearly drag the UK quickly out of recession – approximately one third of the UK is underlain by oil and gas bearing shales, offering an abundant supply of cheap and reliable energy for probably a century or more. This restriction of a seismic event of 0.5, which will obviously be eventually upped to a more sensible figure, means that economic recovery is unnecessarily delayed, because of the half baked whim of a thoroughly incompetent minister.

    Yet the loonies still believe in investing in very expensive, highly unreliable, wind power, which has to be backed up by gas fired power stations.

    What planet does Ed Davey and his ilk think they live on?

  8. meltemian says:

    We get earthquakes here all the time, generally the only time we know about it is when we notice the pictures are a little crooked. In fact we apparently had one about 4 hours ago, didn’t feel a thing and that was a 3.0!!.

  9. Evan Thomas, Sydney says:

    Now the blokes have started freezing, for the Lord has sent us snow;
    But we’re sick of prayers and Providence—we’re going to do without;
    With the derricks up above us and the solid earth below,
    We are waiting at the lever for the word to let her go,
    Fracking down, deeper down,
    Fracking down, deeper down;
    As the drill is plugging downward at thousand feet of level,
    If the Lord wont’t send us methane, oh, we’ll get it from the devil;
    Yes we’ll get it from the devil deeper down.

    After (Ozzie) Banjo Paterson