Issues and Facts
- Published Date
- Written by Administrator
Myth 10: Shale takes up a lot of space
A. Advances in drilling multiple wells from one pad, combined with longer and longer underground horizontal drilling wells, mean the modern shale technology that will be used in Europe will see a 2.5 hectare or less well pad covering 5 sqkm or more. We certainly won’t see a sea of natural gas derricks as in old movies. The action takes place underground, not over it and many people will be unaware of it happening at all. The actual distance between pads can be several kilometres.
B. Because of the flexibility provided by horizontal drilling, the well pad surface location can be placed in an area that will minimize disturbance to local agriculture or private residences.
C. Europe is perceived as a crowded continent, but the population is concentrated in urban areas. There is a surprising amount of empty space in Europe, with shale drilling in Poland taking place in areas with lower population densities than similar shale areas in Texas.
D. The modern shale era started out in Fort Worth Texas, the 17th largest city in the United States, where shale wells have been drilled on university campuses and even on the local airport. Currently there are no plans to drill in European urban areas, but the US experience shows that it is possible for shale to coexist with very close neighbours.
i. Each well can take as little as three weeks to drill. European operations are expected to have an ultimate spade to seed, first dig to final cover time of sixty days or less.
ii. After construction is complete, above ground impact of valves and possible separation tanks will take up the space of a shipping container or less. Equipment can also be buried and sites landscaped to restore the ground in many cases to original condition.
iii. Natural gas is lighter than air and naturally flows to the surface with little or no noisy pumping required.
Myth 9: European shale is only a short term stopgap that will not provide energy security
A. We hope to see the first concrete results of actual European resources sometime in 2011. But a number of independent reports predict that even conservative figures allow that the UK for example, would not need any LNG imports at all for several decades thanks to shale.
B.Similarly, predictions of Polish shale resources show a resource equal to over a hundred years at existing gas levels and several decades even accounting for a total substitution of coal with natural gas
C.Poland, France, Germany and the Ukraine may well have substantial volumes of gas available to export throughout the EU or even beyond.
D.One of Europe’s largest and most reliable gas suppliers is Algeria, less than 200km from Spain or Italy via existing sub-sea pipelines and possessing estimated volumes which could enable Algeria alone to supply all of Europe’s gas needs for over ten years.
Myth 8: Shale uses a lot of water
A. Shale does use a lot of water. But compared to what? The 18,000 cubic metres of water needed for drilling a well with a life span of up to ten years is equal to the volume used to irrigate a 3 hectare corn field in one season or an 18 hole golf course in one month.
B. The entire volume of water used at the Cuadrilla Resources’ well in Lancashire UK is less than half of the water lost through leaking pipes in Manchester every two days.
C. In Louisiana USA, several hundred shale wells use less than one half of one percent of total water resources.
D. Estimates from Quebec predict a shale impact of 2.4% of water resources compared to 4% of all water used in the province’s car wash industry.
Myth 7: Water that flows back from the wells is contaminated and enters rivers, streams and drinking water
A. Unlike in parts of the USA, flow-back water in Europe will be re-injected in underground wells several thousand meters deep.
B. Water cannot be disposed of in rivers, stream or anywhere above ground according to current EU wide laws.
Myth 6: Chemicals used in fracking are secret
A. In Europe there will be 100% visibility of the contents of fracking fluid under a combination of local regulations and via the EU regulatory body the European Chemical Agency (ECHA),
B. Existing best practice in the USA is moving towards 100% transparency of fracking fluid via sites such as www.fracfocus.org We can anticipate the similar visibility will be the norm in Europe.
Myth 5: There are over 500 dangerous chemicals in fracking fluid
A. There are generally less than ten chemicals in fracking fluid. In the example of Cuadrilla Resources in the UK, they are only using three.
B. Drillers have an incentive to use less fluid both on cost grounds and for environmental risk abatement.
C. Many of the chemicals are present in far greater concentrations under your sink in common household cleaners. A common chemical is also used in lipstick and contact lens solution (sorbic acid) or in plastic containers (polypropolene). One of the chemicals most often used in the highest concentration is hydrochloric acid, naturally occurring in stomach acid.
D. Fracking fluid is over 99.85% water and sand. Fracking fluid serves to act as a proppant so that gas can flow into the well bore and to the surface. Chemicals are necessary to keep the process going. But chemicals are more expensive than water or sand, providing an incentive to use as little as possible.
Myth 4: Drillers will always try to save money by shortcutting regulations which protect water:
A. Any extra regulatory costs involved in water protection are a fraction of the total well costs of up to €8million. Contamination would result in substantial fines, civil damages, reputational risk costs and even loss of license that would have an impact far in excess of any possible advantage.
B. The extra cement casing of the well has a different original purpose than to protect ground water aquifers from contamination, which is to prevent contamination of the gas in the well bore by ground water. Mixing gas and water in the well bore is far more dangerous and expensive for drillers to repair than saving a few thousand on a cheap cement job.
Myth 3 : Shale gas will prevent the emergence of renewable technology
A. Investing the savings provided by shale gas in research and development of next generation low carbon alternatives provides a continuing opportunity for shale to promote energy alternatives.
B. Natural gas can help the development of solar and wind projects by providing a low cost scalable and proven back up for nightime hours and when wind is not blowing.
Myth 2: Shale Gas will poison the water supply
A. Firstly let’s remember that the overwhelming majority of Europeans, 99% in the case of the UK for example, get their drinking water from the public water supply, not the private wells at the centre of any US controversy. Public water supply is constantly monitored and has many redundant sources, very few of which are from ground water aquifers. Even the most rabid shale opponents have never even insinuated that fracking contaminates public water supply.
B. Fracking fluids cannot flow up 3,000 meters from where gas is extracted anymore than a stream can flow uphill.
C. The US Ground Water Protection Council, a group of public water regulators in various states has said that they have not seen a single instance of contamination of water by fracking fluid.
Myth 1: My water will catch on fire
A. Anyone who has seen the US Movie Gasland, and even worse many who haven’t, knows the scene where someone lights up water coming out of a tap.
B. Methane in water supply is a rare but widely documented phenomenon. Methane itself is not considered dangerous enough to even rate a drinking water standard, but it’s certainly alarming and definitely entertaining. But it has no connection to shale gas. If it did, this official document from 2006, before the start of widespread fracking in Pennsylvania wouldn’t have been published when it was.
C. Similarly, this newspaper report on water on fire in Tennessee dates from 1987
D. Or gas in the water in Pennsylvania in 1983 twenty years before modern shale gas.
E. Or Alberta 1973.
F. Finally the investigation by Colorado of the homeowner in the Gasland scene dates to before the movie was made, but revealing that the official investigation blamed the pyrotechnic display on naturally occurring methane unrelated to gas drilling wouldn’t have made good art by injecting good science.