A Short Guide to the Legal Position of Fracking

Extracting natural gas from shale – fracking – is an investment opportunity, an opportunity for a nation that has shale gas deposits to be more energy independent, and could bring environmental benefits if natural gas replaces coal for electricity generation. There are, however, many legal issues involved and what follows is a short guide to those issues as I understand them. Continue reading

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

Accidents will happen on oil and gas rigs, again

For the past few days theElginrig in theNorth Seahas been leaking methane. As a precaution “non essential” workers have left the rig. Methane clouds have been noted above the rig and gas concentrate six miles long has appeared as a sheen on the sea surface. 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.


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

Achieving Zero

Brenda Boardman is at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. I have always found that she has interesting things to say about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings. She has now written a report “Achieving Zero” which you can read in full at http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/research/energy/achievingzero/achieving-zero-text.pdf or in summary at http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/research/energy/achievingzero/achievingzero-execsum.pdf which sets out some findings and ideas about reducing greenhouse egas emissions from buildings. This is a difficult problem in the United Kingdom where there are more than 26 million buildings the vast majority of which were built to designs and specifications when green house gas emissions and fuel costs were not a concern. Continue reading

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

A New Fusion Initiative; the Search for the Grail of Energy

In theory if you can compress atomic nuclei – fusing them together you can get energy because as the nuclei get closer they release energy. That is the theory of nuclear fusion, the holy grail of energy creation. If you can get it to work, the theory goes, the energy released in the form of heat can be used to drive steam turbines thus generating cheap electricity in a manner that as far as we can ascertain, is cheap and relatively safer that generating heat by splitting atoms, which is the traditional nuclear energy way. Continue reading

Investigating Energy prices

Regulators are supposed to regulate. In the case if energy companies the regulator is OFGEM and it has power to investigate so that regulation may be effective. In the past few months the energy companies in theUnited Kingdom, being in effect six retail suppliers of gas and electricity, have announced very large price increases, approaching twenty percent. Continue reading

The Renewable Heat Incentive Premium Payment Scheme

On Monday 1st August a new UK government incentive is available for up to 25,000 homes for householders who opt to install a renewable heating system. A householder can get a grant of as much as £1,250 towards the installation costs of solar heating panels, air and ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers. Those who are not on the gas grid network will get precedence as they will almost inevitably be heating their homes and their water using electricity or heating oil, instead of natural gas, which is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly of all the fossil fuels. Continue reading