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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

More on those small earthquakes

Today's Telegraph reports that the controversial ''fracking'' technique used to extract gas from the ground was the ''highly probable'' cause of earth tremors which hit Lancashire's Fylde coast earlier this year.

A firm of independent experts were commissioned to investigate after a tremor of magnitude 2.3 on the Richter scale hit the area on April 1 followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on May 27. A summary published by the Cuadrilla, the company concerned, said that it is probable the fracking caused the tremors.

Fracking involves extracting gas reserves from underground by a process of hydraulic fracturing of shale rock using high pressure liquid to release gas, a process green groups claims is damaging the environment.

Cuadrilla said: 'The report concludes that it is highly probable that the fracking at Preese Hall-1 well triggered the recorded seismic events.

'This was due to an unusual combination of factors including the specific geology of the well site, coupled with the pressure exerted by water injection.

'This combination of geological factors was rare and would be unlikely to occur together again at future well sites.

'If these factors were to combine again in the future, local geology limits seismic events to around magnitude 3 on the Richter scale as a worst-case scenario.'

I am not sure what comfort that offers for areas that may also be subject to applications for fracking in the future.
Wow ... so if the stars all line up we might actually get a 3.0 earthquake ... oh brother, shaking in my boots. Wow, that’s ‘going to bring the house down’.

"As it happens", a UK outfit has just signed a deal with a US outfit to supply $8 billion worth of methane gas. Yes, the USA is now awash with methane which the UK wants to import even though this 'awashness' is actually the result of fracking operations.

I seem to recall a "Higgins" arguing just a year (might have been less) that the west and/or USA is running out of hydrocarbon supply - well blow me backwards, ND (North Dakota) is awash with hydrocarbons - it's a magnet for new jobs with USCs driving across country to get jobs there.

So the UK/Wales wants to stick its noise up to shale gas/oil, but is happy to import the same from the USA.

Sorry, but the coal industry in Wales had issues, I recall my relatives telling me of shudders they felt (probably from mine shafts collapsing); and the injuries and sickness from coal dust, some of which found itself in streams - in fact my grandfather told me of a guy who was paid to collect coal dust from rivers and streams and he made a fortune because he sold it on to a power station.

Doesn't Wales et al need jobs? There are issues with any hydrocarbon mining operation; gas from shale is no exception, but will likely lead to far fewer injuries and dust issues. Does anyone remember the coal slag heaps? The horrible injuries from mining coal?

My Welsh grandfather suffered a terrible injury when he was a miner and was brought home and left to die on a kitchen table, but somehow he survived to old age. But he was very badly hurt. I've seen miners who have suffered with damaged lung from breathing in coal dust - nowadays this is less of an issue, I have a relative working on driving trucks at the open cast site near Merthyr Tydfil, there are issues with that site too.
Christ, Christopher Woods really does think he's a know-it-all; yet he's living in the confines of Washington DC rather than the South Wales Coalfields....
Well, is that why they have started test drilling in the St John's Colliery site in Maesteg, with the large fracture zones around Maesteg, Bryn, Nanty & Llangynwyd???
Anon (9:49 PM)> and your argument is? "As it happens" (Tommy Cooper) the 'confines of Washington DC' recently experienced an earthquake over 100 times more powerful than a 3.0 earthquake. Nobody died. The aftershocks included some in the 4.0 range. A 3.0 is so small it would do very little, if any, damage.

South Wales is sitting on a potential job bonanza. Coal mining in Wales, even though much reduced, produces injuries and deaths. Just today the Western Mail reported a third mining accident in as many months. There is no question that fracking comes with issues, the real question is whether they are manageable and can they generate deaths and injuries anything like the coal mining industry of old (and apparently the 'new' based on recent coal mining incidents in South Wales). Cardiff became prominent because of coal exports, and today Cardiff is the largest and most powerful city in Wales.

Sadly, there are plenty of Welsh men and women who are obliged to leave Wales in search of work. Most of us want to be home in our beloved Wales where we have family and friends and honestly it feels better to be home. I hate living in the DC metro area, it is congested, expensive and a huge metropolis, and it is under constant tension because of the threat of terror attacks. The recent 5.8 (reported locally as a 5.9) earthquake that hit us was first thought by many to be a huge explosion in downtown DC rippling out to the surrounding area. I was home working in Arlington when it struck and I never figured it was an earthquake until the radio finally confirmed it was and that there was no terror attack (I live a couple of miles or so from the Pentagon which was hit on 911 by a hijacked airliner).

But I am not just sitting on my derrier in ‘Washington, DC’; I am in contact with at least one well known senior Cardiff politician hoping to run some workshops on how to protect Welsh inventions (and hence future Welsh job creation). I also attended at my own expense BioWales 2009 and explained to anyone who would listen that it is not hard to protect Welsh biotech inventions in the largest market in the world; I also met with a past senior Plaid politician to discuss the very low patent issue rate among most universities in Wales. I’m only one guy and making such trips (without direct flights to Cardiff) costs a lot and takes up a lot of time, and the economy is not exactly generated great cash flow - times are hard, even for many people in 'Washington, DC'.
If the Scots can cash in on their hydrocarbon bonanza why shouldn't Wales? Does Wales want to be at the bottom of just about every economic league table?

"Scots ‘can cash in’ on £375bn oil bonanza"


Tim Yeo (MP) is the chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

From the Independent: "Mr Yeo said people needed to recognise that there is a "degree of risk" associated with recovering all fossil fuels, whether oil, gas or coal. He argued that, on balance, the apparent benefits of fracking appear to outweigh the risks, so long as the safety and environmental actions of the practice are closely monitored."

"Britain's recently discovered, apparently vast, reserves of shale gas "have the potential to be a game-changer", Mr Yeo said."

The article also noted that the Blackpool area tremors were mostly tiny ...


Most houses in the South Wales Valley's are constructed either from brick or stone held together with Black Mortar, this will result in structural damage in the event of earthquake(s).

No real bonanza (or any other cowboy TV series) in the way of Money or Jobs. The company that's drilling in Maesteg is Costal Oil & Gas, a subsidiary of Eden Energy a Austrialian firm. Drilling & fracking is a specialist job, as CW knows we are awash with Geology graduates in Wales so happy days on the job front, NOT!
Cardiff has had small earthquakes, my house in Cardiff was made of bricks and mortar like thousands of other houses but the Cardiff quake(s) did not bring houses down - they were too small.

Fracking at the most (if the stars line up) will produce a 3.0 - that is a very small earthquake and will likely do very little damage if any. The 'confines of Washington, DC' recently had a 5.8 earthquake and houses suffered very little if any damage and a 5.8 is over 100 times (two orders of magnitude) more than a 3.0. Coal subsidence in Wales has led to far more damage to houses and property than very small earthquakes which visit Wales (even Cardiff) from time to time.

The UK is already buying shale gas from the USA - $8 billion contract was announced a few days ago, there will be more because the USA is now awash with methane in part c/o shale gas.

If the UK can cutback on liquefied gas imports that will help a lot to reduce the UK trade deficit which is the reason behind huge government borrowing would help too. Also, pumping LPG through a large bore underground pipe across S. Wales also presents risk. The UK (including Wales) is sitting on a huge amount of shale gas.

According to MP Tim Yeo, who is the chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, the amount of shale gas in the UK could be a 'game changer'. Meaning we could be less dependent on methane imports from, e.g., Russia and if we end up awash with methane we can run more cars on methane and save on our oil costs.

ECHR - something the UK signed up too!

Article 2 - protects the right of every person to their life. Governments & Local Authorities have a positive duty to prevent foreseeable loss of life.

Article 3 - No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 8 - Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

Hopefully, Fracking in our South Wales Counties can be opposed using the European Convention on Human Rights
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