Shale gas and fracking is a controversial subject. If you’re not sure how it works, have a look here. To some its a panacea for energy security issues, for others an environmental disaster. Now it appears, there may be a hitherto unforeseen side effect…
One of the most up-to-date estimates of potential UK shale gas reserves are double previous figures, making the UK one of the main focuses for fracking in Europe. According to onshore producer IGas Energy plc, ‘The provisional independent pre-drill estimate of the shale GIIP (Gas initially in place) in the IGas acreage in the North West of England was up to 4.6Tcf (IGas interest 100%). Having now drilled and logged the shale, the GIIP would more than double using these initial log results and applying a consistent methodology.’
The Guardianreported that, ‘When you combine our estimates with Cuadrilla’s flow results, you’re looking at probably a shale that’s going to be better than what has been seen in Europe, definitely better than Poland,” Andrew Austin, CEO of IGas, said. Cuadrilla Resources suspended fracking in May 2011 at a site near Blackpool after its fracking operations caused tremors in the nearby area.’
While the UK has yet to decide whether ot not Cuadrilla can resume its drilling activities, the company itself says: ‘Of the small seismic events near Blackpool in April and May 2011, the British Geological Survey has said, “The tremors were way too small to cause any damage” ( Dr Mike Stephenson, BGS, November 2011). The Geomechanical Study of the Bowland Shale Seismicity confirms that there is little risk of future seismic events recurring in the Bowland Basin, but proposes a series of mitigation measures to prevent any future noticeable seismic activity, that could reach a level that might give rise to concern by local residents.
But wait, new research from U.S. Geological Survey has concluded that, “A remarkable increase in the rate of [magnitude-3.0] and greater earthquakes is currently in progress,” the scientists state in the abstract for their study. “A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock.”
However, perhaps the biggest issue which might scupper the development of shale gas could be that it might prevent the development of CArbon Capture and Storage (CSS). According to a piece in last week’s New Scientist fracking could foil carbon capture plans. According to the article, ‘But Michael Celia of Princeton University says 80 per cent of the US’s potential CO2 storage volume overlaps with shale gas fields. In time, the impermeable shale will be poked through with so many holes from fracking that it will no longer form an effective seal for any aquifer below.’
Oh dear, back to the drawing board yet again!
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