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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Earthquakes and pollution

I have already expressed my concern at the process of fracking, proposed for the Vale of Glamorgan and Maesteg as a means of extracting natural shale gas. The process works by injecting fluids under high pressure deep underground to deliberately blast apart the gas-bearing rock. In Lancashire there have been two minor earthquakes centred on the area where this activity is underway.

New reports from the United States have now raised further concerns about this process. Amongst these are claims that wastewater from natural gas hydrofracturing in a West Virginia national forest quickly wiped out all ground plants, killed more than half of the trees and caused radical changes in soil chemistry:

The new study by Mary Beth Adams, a U.S. Forest Service researcher, appears in the July-August issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Quality. She looked at the effects of land application of fracking fluids on a quarter-acre section of the Fernow Experimental Forest within the Monongahela National Forest. More than 75,000 gallons of fracking fluids, which are injected deep underground to free shale gas and then return to the surface, were applied to the assigned plot over a two day period during June 2008. The following effects were reported in the study:

  • Within two days all ground plants were dead;

  • Within 10 days, leaves of trees began to turn brown. Within two years more than half of the approximately 150 trees were dead; and

  • “Surface soil concentrations of sodium and chloride increased 50-fold as a result of the land application of hydrofracturing fluids…” These elevated levels eventually declined as chemical leached off-site. The exact chemical composition of these fluids is not known because the chemical formula is classified as confidential proprietary information.

  • There really does need to be a propoer investigation into this process before it is allowed to start in South Wales.
    Peter> this is a nonsense, the NY Times is hardly unbiased, and all you have done is repeated parts of the NY Times article and not the actual source article.

    Some reporting previously pointed to an 'expert' who claimed methane gas was coming out of peoples' taps? Which was of course a JOKE, a setup as methane does not dissolve well in water so someone stuck a gas supply just upstream of the tap to generate free methane at the tap. So much for the so called 'expert'.

    Please do your homework here and quote from the source article; why don’t you do that than rely on a scaremongering article in the NY Times?

    West Virginia is west of where I live and I've traveled through the area. I can report that there are no house fires caused by free methane gas coming out of peoples' taps. Also, the forests are abundant with life including deer ticks. So much so I prefer to stay out of the forests!
    Chris Wood PhD (chemistry)
    Of course Chris Woods lives in Washington DC rather than the White City Maesteg!

    Since it's such a wonderful addition to the Llynfi Valley, why is this the first time I'm hearing about it???

    I can assure Chris Woods that everything in my power is going to be utilised to expose this coverup!

    Haven't the WG got a policy of begin "green" and carbon neutral, using fracking to produce methane to be burnt in powerstations be adding to greenhouse gases?

    CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O

    ('O' Level chemistry)
    Anon> what cover up? Methane was (still is) regarded as a cleaner burn (combustion) as it produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal at coal powered power stations.

    Also, it may have escaped your notice, but most families’ burn methane in their kitchens (gas cooker), to heat their homes (boilers), and guess what: the lower alkanes are also used in Green buses (again, because burning the lower alkanes is regarded as a cleaner burn).

    Also, the lower alkanes extracted by means of fracking will be used to import less methane via Milford Haven and thence the gas pipeline that was recently installed and runs across (or under) South Wales to supply methane to England via the national gas grid.

    So the net balance will mean less methane will be imported (methane production from the North Sea is running down), so tell me, what's the difference between imported methane burnt in power stations and methane derived via fracking? It's the same molecule (as you confirm: CH4).

    The NY Times article talks about sodium and chloride, well we eat that whenever, for example, we eat Welsh lamb.

    As to the ridiculous NY Times comment to the effect that no one knows the formulation (composition) of fracking fluid, that is strange since the compositions are well known, and if they were not well known it would be VERY easy to work out the composition using STANDARD analysis/kit.

    Without even looking up the formulations used in fracking it is very obvious that the major component of fracking fluid is water, probably well over 90% is water supplied at high pressure to open natural fissures (we did that in Welsh coal mining, but instead on a bigger scale by digging out seams of coal so in effect creating man made fissures which later collapsed causing some tremors and subsidence in Wales. (Like a lot of Welsh families, past members of my family worked down the pits.) In mining Welsh coal there were serious gas hazards and explosion risks, e.g., the underground coal gas explosion at Senghenydd where over 400 Welsh miners died either from the explosion itself (blast wave, falling debris) and/or lack of oxygen related to the burn of coal gas during the explosion. Coal mining in Wales was far more dangerous than fracking - slag heaps were created on the surface, some on hillsides and absent adequate drainage they were vulnerable to slippage, e.g., the Aberfan disaster that killed over 100 Welsh children.

    The remaining ingredients will be agents to promote fissure expansion such as mineral acids to clear out fissures (if you recall your O level chemistry: acid + base = salt + water. So we will see some salt production - but not enough salt to commercially mine! Salt mines are part of man's heritage and were necessary sources of salt - sea salt is another source, but its more expensive, but is also used in cooking and contains less sodium (i.e., probably contains potassium thereby offsetting the amount of sodium), the salt your mum uses is probably table salt, mostly sodium chloride - both are essential elements for humans and pretty much all higher life forms.
    Chris Wood
    Peter> I get the impression from the NY Times article that the experiment involved dumping fracking fluid directly onto a patch of forest, well if you dump a thousand tons of sea water in a forest that would have the same effect on ground plants, but the half life of salt in soil is such that plant life would soon return even if a million tons of sea water was dumped in the middle of a forest. The damage is not permanent. The other things in the fracking fluid almost certainly act as a carbon/energy source for microbes and will be recycled naturally by the 'bugs'.

    Fracking is a lot safer for workers than Welsh coal mining. There is no slag heaps like we see with underground Welsh coal mining, nor the dust issue we see with open cast mining in Wales.

    The methane (and I suspect there will be some ethane and other lower alkanes, but I would need to verify that) generated from Welsh fracking operations would directly offset methane imports, so there will not be a net increase in methane production (N. Sea production of methane is dropping off, hence the recent importation of liquid lower alkanes coming into the Welsh port of Milford Haven aboard bulk carriers (ships).

    It is very sad to see the level of basic science understanding in Wales; the lack of knowledge about methane use even though it is widely used in Welsh homes, the quick and false reliance on scare stories is very indicative of a lack of science education in Wales.

    Methane produced from fracking is a LOT safer in Welsh homes than former Welsh coal gas. It produces a far cleaner burn than coal gas and methane is non-toxic unlike coal gas which is very toxic as evidenced by its use in previous suicides; 'head in the oven' suicides when homes used highly toxic coal gas to cook with.

    Methane is non-toxic, does not dissolve well in water, we depend on it to heat and cook with, to make electricity. I can assure everyone that if everyone stopped using methane (directly and indirectly) the Welsh economy would revert to cave-man status.

    Welsh people eat lettuces? Yes? Where do people think they come from? Picked from trees? Lettuces and other things we eat are often grown 'indoors' in green houses - farmers often have a furnace in their green house to generate guess what: carbon dioxide to accelerate plant growth. This might surprise our O level chemist, but plants require carbon dioxide to grow, and we eat these plants - they are on sale in our supermarkets up and down the land.

    If we don't use methane for electricity production then we will have to use more nuke power to generate electricity and yes, we will have to import liquefied forms of methane via Welsh ports like Milford Haven.

    It is very sad to see a Welsh Assembly AM rely on scare stories and who doesn't go to the source article but relies on a news report in the NY Times which in the USA is regarded as left-wing and an unreliable source of news to such extent its readership is dwindling. For example, one of its reporters was fired for remouthing/quoting in short plagiarizing other news stories.

    I hardly ever read the NY Times; I find it very unreliable and very biased in its reporting. The NY Times likes publishing scare stories and telling whoppers. There is a reason for that, this is a political mouth piece newspaper that engages in biased twisted reporting, and it seems you fell for it Peter. I'm surprised is all.

    If you have issues about fracking, then please refer to the source article and not the biased, inaccurate, reports in the NY Times, a rubbish newspaper that is so into inaccurate and biased reporting that it has lost a lot of its readership base.
    @Peter, don`t you worry too much, there is a rapidly expanding and thriving community of `EXPERTS` who are unbiased in every way and who are very well placed in confirming that shale gas extraction using hydraulic Fracturing is a serious breach of human rights due to the highly likely events that will occur and ultimately contaminate our most precious and vital water supplies. The anti fracking,CBM gas extraction communities are and will continue to gain victories against this highly controversial procedure. Bans and moratoriums are being gained and companies are being shut down as a consequence of water contamination as in the recent events in Queensland.
    It`s obvious to me that anybody who opposes the immediate shut down of this lunacy, is not very well educated.
    we have enough problems in Maesteg without this FRACKING who gave them permission to drill?
    The Councillors on the planning department, BCBC look at planning application P/11/12/ful for further details.
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