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Fossil Fuels Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale Gas Deposits

Published on August 23rd, 2011 | by Bob Higgins

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WTF: What’s This Fracking?

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August 23rd, 2011 by  

 

Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale Gas Deposits

Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale Gas Deposits in US / Source: Energy Information Administration Click for larger image

This contentious issue has the oil and gas industries, development interests, and cash strapped landowners looking to make some quick lease money, on one side… facing down environmentalists, agricultural, tourism interests and other landowners looking to protect the nature of their land and water from what they see as polluters and wastrels, on the other.

In the middle is water, the use and abuse of billions of gallons of it, and the potential pollution and ruination of billions, trillions… or some impossibly larger quantity, more.

For those unfamiliar with the process, fracking, (diagram) involves the drilling of a bore hole in the earth, usually going from vertical to horizontal in order to affect the largest area of the shale gas deposit and pumping it full of water mixed with (among other things undisclosed) diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid, methylene, sand, ceramic beads, and other things you probably wouldn’t include in a highball. This is done at very high pressures in order to fracture the gas (or oil) bearing shale or coal and increase the flow rate for economically efficient extraction.

The water is then pumped out and separated from the gas and treated for use as… well, I don’t know what I’d use that water for, perhaps the livestock… but then there’s PETA.. it’s a quandary, for sure.

Anyway, somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the water mixed with sand and diesel fuel, methane, and other toxins and carcinogens, or what the industry calls “goodies”… let’s just call it a fracking cocktail, shall we, stays in the earth to go whereever it will.

Some say it gets mixed with underground supplies of drinking water, private and public wells, and contaminates aquifers. The “experts” of the gas and oil industry say this is “twaddle.” The environmentalists, meanwhile, have presented videos of fire-breathing and Oscar-nominated faucets as evidence of what the water is finally worth. The jury is out on any definitive conclusion, as they’ve not yet been fully paid by the money guys.

A few months back T Boone “Cornpone” Pickens was all over the talk shows pitching his program of natural gas and wind energy, his “Pickens Plan” to save America from the Asian and Middle Eastern hordes, and the subject of fracking came up often. T Boone “Cornpone” Pickens unabashedly said “… you’re not talking about Ned in the first reader. I’ve been here. I have fracked 3,000 wells in my life… I’ve never seen anything damaged.”

More recently, something (perhaps credit default swaps) has taken the wind out of the Pickens Plan, but the basic fracking plan is still there. In addition to one of the world’s larger money collections, I think old T Cornpone owns more than a few cubic miles of natural gas.

Meanwhile, back at the Andes town meeting where Mr. Fish reported that a full 10% of the population showed up (imagine, for a moment, that the city council meeting in your town was attended by 10% of the citizens… yeah, I’m thinking SWAT teams too). And, when, after 3 hours and 40 minutes of New England civility:

..as Mr. Fish tells it: “One speaker called for a straw poll. ‘Anyone in favor of fracking?’ Not a hand was raised.”

Sources and related links on fracking:

Map: Energy Information Administration

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About the Author

Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.



  • Shaletalk

    If you have questions or concerns about shale gas exploration, please visit/follow (shaletalk.ca, facebook.com/shaletalk, twitter.com/shaletalk) and join the open discussion. Share your ideas and links to shale related topics with others, stay and ask a question to experts in the industry, and participate in the debate in an open environment. Join the discussion now at Shaletalk.ca. We hope to hear from you soon!

  • Pingback: Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt « Bob Higgins

  • Pingback: WTF: What’s This Fracking? « Bob Higgins

  • Jmsthurber

    There is no evidence that the “fire-breathing” faucet has anything to do with fracking. It’s almost certainly related to leakage from a shallow gas accumulation into the well. This type of thing is not very uncommon in gas-prone areas.

  • Pingback: Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt | CleanTechnica

  • 1moonveil2

    Unless they start storing the energy from wind, more gas plants will be required to synchronize the ups and downs of the grid with the ups and downs of wind. More gas plants means more fracking.

    • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

      We can store wind and solar energy by pumping water uphill in off peak hours and retrieving its energy in peak hours with the help of gravity. There are many solutions on the horizon, first, we have to honestly confront the problems, free of the addiction to fossil fuels.

      • 1moonveil2

        I keep hearig great ideas about what “can” happen, all of them great. Germany is looking abandoned mines. There is biomass,etc. The problem is what IS happening and they ARE building new gas plants to pair with wind. At what point do we demand pairing renewable energy with other forms of controllable renewable energy. When?

        • Anonymous

          There are several new pump-up storage facilities outside the US. Inside the US there are some in the planning phase and should be built in the next few years.

          Thing is, we don’t yet need storage in order to incorporate wind and solar into our grid supply. Our grids could be 20% to 30% wind and solar before we would need storage. We’re just now passing the 3% level.

          Bringing a large number of EVs and PHEVs to the grid will greatly increase that 20%/30% level. Cars spend most of their lives parked. Plugged in while parked means that there would be an incredible ability to charge during supply peaks. And that means that we can install more renewables without having to store or dump peak production.

          We’re building new gas plants, not to backup renewables, but to replace the dirtiest coal plants and because NG is unreasonably inexpensive right now.

          I suspect a lot of our NG plant construction occurs because of the type of people who run utility companies. These ‘old mossbacks’ are used to using heat to boil water to spin turbines and are not comfortable with new-fangled stuff like wind and solar.

          That will change.

          Natural gas prices are almost certainly doomed to rise. We drilled way too many wells as money rushed into the endeavor. That caused a surplus which dropped prices and we are now working our way through that surplus.

          Additionally, we’re starting to sell NG to other countries which are willing to pay more for our gas. That will drive up price.

          Finally, it’s looking like the amount of NG we’re going to get from wells is greatly overestimated. There’s likely to be far less gas produced for the money spent to drill the hole, so the gas is going to get sold for more.

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