Fracking earthquakes and fracking underground water supplies

In terms of emissions and particulates produced by actual burning natural gas is the least polluting of all fossil fuels by a good distance. However, when it comes to environmental protection we must consider the effects of everything that is done to extract the fossil fuel and use it, not just the last step in the energy chain. If we use oil taken from Canadian oil tar sands then the overall effect of its pollution is very high – probably higher than coal mined from open cast pits. When we look at using natural gas extracted from shale rock we must, before we decide on its environmental effect, look at the first steps in the production of the gas, not just the last step, when it burns in our condensing boiler. Continue reading

Update on Fracking

I have been expressing fears that fracking – the extraction of methane from shale gas by pumping water and chemicals into the shale- will lead to two major problems. The first is the contamination of underground water supplies and the second is the creation of earth quakes (probably of a relatively minor nature) by undermining the land under which the fracking takes place.

According to the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, based in Austin, my fears are ill founded. Studies showed that there has been no contamination of shallow groundwater but much more studies are required to establish a position that is beyond doubt, and the earthquake risk also requires more studies.

Ultimately I suspect that fracking will contaminate ground water, not because it is inevitable that it does, but because the oil and gas industry are very good at cutting corners to save costs. To use hydraulic fracturing safely means that the gas will be far more expensive to mine that it is at present, and like the extraction of many resources from the earth, without proper safety regulations, impeccably adhered to and enforced, accidents will happen and short cuts will be taken with environmental matters.

A proper understanding of what regulations are required to protect water supplies has not yet been achieved. Some folk can still set their tap water alight as a result of fracking carried out without regard to underground water safety. No doubt a system can be devised to prevent too much methane from leaking into underground water supplies, but it would be more logical to conduct fracking after such a system had been devised, not to find it out by trial and error as a result of fracking that has been carried out.

No doubt the United States with it great litigious culture will find many class actions in the future founded upon the health effects of methane contaminated water as a direct result of hydraulic fracturing. In the meantime the gas extracted is cheap and useful.

I do not understand what regulations can do to prevent earthquakes, if earthquakes are caused by fracking. Rocks of the earth’s crust can be broken by pressure, where they are weak, and the pressure of injecting them with enough pressure to force methane out can be enough to create earthquakes in places not prone to them.

The Energy Institute at the University of Texas concluded that more studies are required before we can understand what fracking really does; the issue is whether the studies should precede further fracking or follow it.


UK Energy Statistics 3rd Quarter 2011

The Department of Energy & Climate Change has published statistics showing energy trends for the third quarter of 2011. The statistics show, comparing the position with the third quarter in 2010:- Continue reading

Problems in the Pipeline

Energy is so critical to every nation and in troubled times energy not only becomes more critical, but it also becomes more expensive and harder to get. Continue reading

The Fourteen Billion

I was re-reading a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov. Asimov was born in 1920, and each story is prefaced with an explanation of how he came to write it. At the end of the story the note continues with an end piece. Although Asimov was famous as a writer of science fiction – I, Robot was made into a film but it was not his best work – he was also a scientist of renown. Continue reading

Make it Easy for People to use Off Peak Electricity

With all the news about energy costs and all the measures that the government is urging upon people in the United Kingdom to reduce their energy costs by switching suppliers, it seems to me that the government is missing a fairly simple way to reduce energy consumption and save money which will benefit the consumer and the environment.

The idea that I have revolves around electricity costs. These are not for most people the largest energy bill they receive – they usually spend more on gas , but the government has for at least the past ten years equated energy with electricity, so perhaps they will like this idea for saving electricity costs and consumption.

Much of the fuel used in generating electricity from non nuclear power stations is used in firing up the power stations. Nuclear produced electricity cannot be turned on and off quickly – it takes days or weeks to get the nuclear power station working and to stop it working. Gas, coal and oil supplied power stations can be turned on and off (or up and down) more easily and they do this. In the course of doing this much energy is wasted as they will turn up the power some time before they expect a surge of demand and turn it down when they expect the use to be less.

Our UK power supplies at the moment stable, which means that the management of power is done well, but in order for it to be done well the power generating companies inevitably have to waste fuel, which means that emissions are wastefully produced and unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions are produced.

Some but not all parts of the country have “off peak electricity” so called because there is a separate meter that is feed to electric storage heaters which is fed at night using cheap electricity when electricity is not in demand, and the storage heaters feed their heat in the day, when heat is needed.

My concept is to expand this use of white electricity. With the technology available to us today there is no reason why every electric meter could not be set to charge at different rates according to the time of day when the current is used. People then, who use electrical appliances could set their appliances to come on when electricity is in low demand and current could be used then. It would not be rocket science to set up and the technology could easily be incorporated into the smart meters that are supposed to be rolling out over the country.

My concept will not save billions of pounds or millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases but it would produce savings because on many matters people act to benefit their wallets and not their conscious.

Starting Up your Condensing Boiler after the Summer

Modern boilers are very efficient but compared with old system boilers they are very complicated. People usually experience difficulty in starting them up after the summer. You switch the central heating on and nothing happens. What should you do? What follows is for knowledgeable people who are comfortable working with do it yourself projects. If you have any doubt whatsoever call a Gas Safe qualified plumber. Continue reading