|There is a lot of confusion regarding the terms Shale Gas and Coal Bed Methane, along with an array of other terms.
Here, I attempt to clear up some of the confusion regarding the terms and associated issues.
Shale Gas is defined as a natural gas produced from shale. Shale has low permeability, so gas production in commercial quantities requires fractures to provide permeability. Shale gas has been produced for years from shales with natural fractures; the shale gas boom seen in the USA in recent years has been due to new technology in hydraulic fracturing (especially directional drilling and frack fluids) to create extensive artificial fractures around well bores. It is sometimes referred to as tight gas. Shale is by far the most common rock associated with tight gas, but others include certain sandstones.
Tight gasis natural gas held in rocks with pores up to 20,000 times narrower than a human hair, such that the gas will not flow freely into a well without fracturing.
Coal Bed Methane (CBM), also sometimes known as sweet gas, coalbed gas, or coal mine methane (CMM), is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. To extract the gas, a steel-encased hole is drilled into the coal seam (100 to1500 meters below ground). Often, pressure within the coal seams brings water and gas to the surface readily enough. As the pressure within the coal seam declines, due to natural production or the pumping of water from the coalbed, stimulation by hydraulic fracturing is used . Unlike shale, coal is frequently very porous and permeable, and therefore often has a high water content. It generally needs to be de-watered before any gas can be extracted and collected. The ‘produced water’ is either re-injected into isolated formations, released into streams, used for irrigation, or sent to evaporation ponds. It is often contaminated with all manner of dissolved ingredients from the coal beds and associated rocks.
All the above types of gas extraction fall under the category of Unconventional Gas. One way of defining unconventional gas is that can only be produced economically by using hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, or other techniques to expose more of the reservoir to a borehole in order to gain access to the gas.
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING (FRACKING)
I hope this is helpful.
If you want to know anything else, please ask via the reply facility (Leave a Comment) or the Facebook page. If I don’t know, I will do my best to find out.
Monthly Archives: December 2011
Pippa Bartolotti duly elected as new Wales Green Party leader
|I can report that, as anticipated, Pippa Bartolotti has been elected as Wales Green Party’s new leader. Pippa is known by her local community as a hard-working campaigner against the Newport Incinerator and a member of the flotilla offering aid to Gaza.
“I am proud and indeed humbled to be leading Wales Green Party at a time when our message of solving economic and environmental challenges together is desperately needed. Our membership has nearly doubled in the last 2 years, and our voice is getting stronger. The people of Wales deserve to be represented by a party which is prepared to stand strong in action and principle, and present sturdy policies to bring Wales successfully through the difficult years to come.””All over this country we face threats from an unrepentant banking sector which the rest of us have been forced to pay for, and a Government refusing to protect our health and our future by safeguarding the environment. The Green Party will push for policies which create decent jobs and tangible stability. Our strength is in our unwavering commitment to a philosophy which has been proved right time and again. I will work hard to forward our Green agenda for small businesses, for green jobs, for clean industries, better health and a more stable economy.”
“I would like to thank all the members of the Green Party who have voted for me, and thank them for their honesty and commitment which has become the hallmark of a party I am proud to serve.”
Bridgend members will have the chance to meet Pippa at an event Keith is hosting in Swansea, early in the New Year. Details soon.
Encouraging stuff in the news re fracking campaign
|Firstly, DECC blog, published today asks the right questions – so let us hope ministers read it and act on it:
Secondly, our fight against the frackers get acknowledged in the BBC Wales Review of the Year:
(although I am not happy that they chose to highlight a misleading quote from Gerwyn Williams!)
As Britains poorest are hit by £2.5bn stealth tax, we need our honest alternative, the Citizens Income, more t han ever
|The moral bankruptcy of the the Coalition Government is laid bare by this analysis of the forthcoming
tax changes. The Government’s flagship policy of raising income-tax thresholds has been trumpeted
by the Liberal Democrats as their main achievement since the Coalition was formed last year and
a major boost for the low-paid. But they are now shown to be either utterly inept at checking over the
small print produced by their Tory partners, or aware that it is no more than yet another ‘con’ trick to
rob the poor to give to the rich.
To quote the Resolution Foundation’s findings:
regressive in the lower half of the distribution… Not only is the change huge overall; it is not widely
understood or known about being made up of a number of small changes to both the child tax
credit and working tax credits.” The study concluded: “Low to middle-income households receive
56 per cent of all tax credits in cash terms and so will be hit disproportionately.”
Although 1.1 million people will be taken out of tax by April, the analysis concluded that family incomes
have dropped “dramatically” since the Coalition was formed when inflation and earnings are taken into
account. A couple with two children and an income of £40,000 a year will see it fall by 8.9 per cent between
2010-11 and 2012-13, and by 14.5 per cent by 2013-14. “The scale of that obviously puts in context the
very small impact of the personal-allowance increase,” said the think tank. It defines low to middle earners
as having incomes ranging from £12,000 for a couple with no children to £42,500 a year for a couple with
Full Independent article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/britains-poorest-hit-by-25bn-stealth-tax-6281832.html?fb_action_ids=782901269654&fb_action_types=news.reads&fb_source=other_multiline#access_token=AAADWQ6323IoBAP66jCpcCoEZCMaJT2ZBsaWYD4lGGVoGzkTO4h5m2BpQL6myscsxiojWclJ0FCZBpLmHsmFX42RzYlOxSHuXGC3qxt1ZAoRgzefF3cul&expires_in=6876
We have to get our Citizen’s Income proposals out there so people can see that there is a genuine, honest
TEN SIMPLE RESOLUTIONS THAT WILL MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE IN
|From: Andy & Natalie ChybaDate: 26/12/2011 21:06:40
To: GreenParty Blog Post
Subject:SOME SIMPLE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS THAT WILL MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE IN
A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS
Fracking Contamination ‘Will Get Worse’: says Alberta University Expert
|I have been making most of these points about the problems of well case integrity from the outset of the campaign based on my own knowledge of first principles and the evidence of experts like Prof Tony Ingraffea. Here we have Karlis Muehlenbachs, a geochemist and a leading authority on identifying the unique carbon fingerprint or isotopes of shale and conventional gases, at the University of Alberta, expanding on these points based his own research and U.S. Federal studies:
The findings, which clearly contradict industry assurances, didn’t surprise Muehlenbachs, who has studied leaking wells in Alberta’s heavy oil fields for decades.
“The shale gas boom combined with hydraulic fracking will cause wellbores to leak more often than run-of-the-mill conventional wells,” says Muehlenbachs. “The problem is going to get worse, not better.”
Muehlenbachs, who has been fingerprinting leaking gases since 1994, says that hydraulic fracking, which as we know, injects water, chemicals and sand into rock formations at high pressures, may create more leaks in wellbores overtime. (As industry searches for deeper and more extreme hydrocarbons, it must blast open tight rocks with more brute force over larger land bases than conventional operations.)
According to Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield company, there are problems galore. In 2003, the company reported that 43 per cent of 6,692 offshore wells tested in the Gulf of Mexico by U.S. Regulators were found to be leaking. In fact, by the time a well gets 15 years old, there is a 50/50 probability it will leak significantly and therefore contaminate other zones, wells, or groundwater.
“That’s amazing. It’s not Greenpeace reporting this but Schlumberger in the Oilfield Review,” says Muehlenbachs. (Reliable data on well integrity – see below – is hard to find, but a University of Calgary study found that in Alberta approximately five per cent of all wells leak, while leakage rates in Norway range from 13 to 19 per cent from producing wells.)
The University of Calgary study on ‘Well Design and Well Integrity’ can be found here: http://www.ucalgary.ca/wasp/Well%20Integrity%20Analysis.pdf
Muehlenbachs also recognises the industry’s propensity to tell blatant lies.
Although petroleum engineers now admit that companies routinely blast fluids and gas into other industry wells hundreds of metres away (B.C., Texas and North Dakota have all documented such cases), they still claim that “fracture communication incidents” can’t happen with groundwater.
Muehlenbachs, who has documented numerous cases of groundwater contamination, calls such denials dishonest. “Such claims do more harm than good to industry. Don’t they realize that social license matters to industry?”
Whenever methane leaks from one well into a neighboring wellsite, “industry says let’s fix the leaks,” says Muehlenbachs. “But as soon as the leaks enter groundwater, everyone abandons the same logic and technology and says it can’t happen and the denials come out. In Alberta, it’s almost a religious belief that gas leaks can’t contaminate groundwater.”
Yet it happens routinely. At a conference in Washington D.C. last month sponsored by ‘Resources for the Future’, Muehlenbachs showed evidence that shale gas drilling activity in Quebec and Pennsylvania had in several cases resulted in surface contamination.
The debate about whether leaking shale methane comes from heavily fracked zones creating faults into groundwater or along poorly cemented wellbores is immaterial to landowners, says Muehlenbachs. “You don’t care if it comes from fracking or a bad cement job, you suffer the consequences all the same, and lose your well water.”
Given these findings and a Duke University study that found extensive methane contamination of domestic water wells in a heavily fracked area, Muehlenbachs recommends that regulators do rigorous gas and water testing. In addition to baseline isotope testing of methane for all water wells and groundwater sources, Muehlenbachs says regulators must also test for ethane and propane (the shale gas fingerprint) as well as gas from abandoned wells and natural seeps and gases from well casings.
This is certainly is not part of our Environment Agencies regime of testing at present.
FOOTNOTE – Courtesy of Will Cottrell:
For the record, the audio for the event you mention is at http://video.rff.org:8000/~rff/111411.mp3, while Muehlenbachs’ slides are here – http://www.rff.org/Documents/Events/Seminars/111114_Managing_the_Risks_of_Shale_Gas/Muehlenbachs%20Nov%2014%20FINAL.pdf
We will have a post carbon future – one way or another!
|This is a brilliant presentation of what, I trust, we all know to be true. Share it far and wide, especially with anyone you suspect has not got the message yet.
Climate Crisis The Collapse In Corporate Media Coverage
|This is an excellent Media Lens article on a very real and worrying aspect of the Climate Change issue – namely the changing tone of media coverage and editorial attitudes.
I commend Media Lens to for probing the way the media covers all manner of issues.
Sign up here: http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=28&Itemid=19
The latest round of UN climate talks has just begun in Durban, South Africa, but the world’s richest nations are already planning to prevent any new treaty from taking effect before 2020. Achim Steiner, head of the UN environment programme, has condemned the action as a ‘political choice’, rather than one based on science, calling it ‘very high risk’.
With the Kyoto Treaty due to expire in 2012, the so-called ‘international community’ has failed abysmally to fulfil its commitments to protect the planet. This should surprise no-one. As senior Nasa climate scientist James Hansen pointed out after the previous climate summit in Mexico in 2010, UN talks are ‘doomed to failure’ since they do not address the fundamental physical constraints of the Earth’s climate system and how to live within them.
Public concern about climate change continues to rise. According to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll (October 2011), 68% of Europeans polled consider climate change a very serious problem (up from 64% in 2009). Altogether 89% see it as a serious problem (either ‘very serious’ or ‘fairly serious’). On a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most), the seriousness of climate change is ranked at 7.4, against 7.1 in 2009.
Meanwhile, media interest in the subject has crashed. Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University describes a ‘collapse of any significant coverage of climate change in the [US] media. We know that 2010 was a record low year, and 2011 will probably look much the same. If the media doesn’t draw attention to the issue, public opinion will decline’.
In his authoritative Climate Progress blog, Joe Romm notes, for example, that the New York Times ‘cut coverage sharply since its peak in 2006 and 2007’.
Equally disturbing is the variation in media performance across the globe. A wide-ranging Reuters study on the prevalence of climate scepticism in the world’s media Poles Apart The international reporting of climate scepticism – focused on newspapers in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK and the USA. The periods studied were February to April 2007 and mid-November 2009 to mid-February 2010 (a period that included the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen and ‘Climategate’). Remarkably, the study concluded that climate scepticism is ‘predominantly an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon’, found most frequently in US and British newspapers:
‘In general the UK and the US print media quoted or mentioned significantly more sceptical voices than the other four countries. Together they represented more than 80% of the times such voices were quoted across all six countries.’
The study concluded:
‘In general, the data suggests a strong correspondence between the perspective of a newspaper and the prevalence of sceptical voices within it, particularly in the opinion pages. By most measures (but not all), the more right-leaning tend to have more such voices, the left-leaning less.’
But in all ten UK newspapers studied, there was an increase ‘both in the absolute numbers of articles with sceptical voices in them and the percentage of articles with sceptical voices in them’.
And so we find that Britain and the US the two countries responding most aggressively to alleged ‘threats’ to human security in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are also the two countries least interested in responding to the very real threat of climate change.
‘Capitalism Is Trampling On Journalism’
As the Reuters study suggests, media reporting is heavily influenced by editorial stance which, in turn, is heavily influenced by commercial interests. In October, the former Daily Star journalist Richard Peppiatt told the Leveson inquiry into the culture and ethics of the British press the truth about about the UK’s newsroom culture:
‘In approximately 900 newspaper bylines I can probably count on fingers and toes the times I felt I was genuinely telling the truth, yet only a similar number could be classed as outright lies. This is because as much as the skill of a journalist today is about finding facts, it is also, particularly at the tabloid end of the market, about knowing what facts to ignore. The job is about making the facts fit the story, because the story is almost pre-defined.
‘Laid out before you is a canon of ideologically and commercially driven narratives that must be adhered to. The newspaper appoints itself moral arbiter, and it is your job to stamp their worldview on all the journalism you do… The ideological imperative comes before the journalistic one – drugs are always bad, British justice is always soft.’
‘Tabloid newsrooms are often bullying and aggressive environments, in which dissent is simply not tolerated. It is difficult to stand up and walk out the door with a mortgage to pay, knowing another opportunity is unlikely to be waiting beyond.’
The issue that is not being discussed by Leveson is the extent to which these observations generalise to the ‘quality’ corporate media, and why. By contrast, in soft-pedalling the level of interference from owners and advertisers, the Guardian’s Nick Davies wrote:
‘Journalists with whom I have discussed this agree that if you could quantify it, you could attribute only 5% or 10% of the problem to the total impact of these two forms of interference.’ (Davies, Flat Earth News, Vintage 2008, p.22)
Compare this with corporate escapee Peppiatt’s unfettered conclusion:
‘Capitalism is trampling on journalism.’
A prime example of this trampling was supplied by the high-profile BBC series Frozen Planet, narrated by David Attenborough, focusing on life and the environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. British viewers will see a total of seven episodes, the last of which, ‘On thin ice’, deals with the threat of climate change.
However, viewers in some other countries will only watch six episodes. This is because the BBC packaged the series in such a way that the climate change episode was an ‘optional extra’ that foreign networks could choose to reject. And reject it they did – of 30 networks across the world that have bought the series, 10 have opted not to buy the episode on climate change. Most notable among them is the United States, the world’s leading contributor both to climate crisis and disinformation about the problem.
A spokesman for Greenpeace said:
‘It’s a bit like pressing the stop button on Titanic just as the iceberg appears.
‘Climate change is the most important part of the polar story, the warming in the Arctic can’t be denied, it’s changing the environment there in ways that are making experts fearful for the future.’
The BBC’s helpful packaging of Frozen Planet generated little interest in the media, although some praise. Lord Leach of Fairford, the Tory peer and former director of the British Library, commented:
‘I don’t think what Attenborough has to say about climate change is worth listening to. He’s very endearing but I don’t think there’s any truth to what he says – he has no idea about it. The fact is you can be jolly nice to monkeys but it isn’t the same as knowing what you’re talking about on climate change.’
Leach added: ‘It’s quite right to cut the episode.’
Journalist John Gibbons covered the issue of climate change for the Irish Times for two years. He wrote his last, damning column in February 2010:
‘Ireland’s most senior climate expert, Prof John Sweeney of NUI [National University of Ireland] Maynooth, acknowledged last week that climate-change deniers were “winning the propaganda war”. Chief among them, he added, were deniers from the ranks of journalism and lobbying.
‘Hang on a minute, you might ask, aren’t journalists supposed to be the good guys, the ones who investigate, not propagate, scams? Well, yes and no. “A media and telecommunications industry fuelled by advertising and profit maximisation is part of the problem,” [Justin] Lewis and [Tammy] Boyce [of the Cardiff School of Journalism] point out.’
Gibbons stated the obvious:
‘Millionaire “journalists” have a profound yet undeclared personal vested interest in the consumption-driven economic status quo upon which their wealth is predicated. As, of course, do billionaire media proprietors. They in turn seek out affirmation of their own biases, and ridicule dissenters.’
While The Media Fiddles, 2010’s Monster Increase Burns
While public concern grows and media coverage collapses, the climate change problem is going through the roof. According to a recent study by the US Department of Energy, the global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record in 2010. The world pumped about 564 million more tons of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009, an increase of 6 per cent. The latest figures mean that levels of greenhouse gases ‘are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago’, USA Today reports.
Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past, said:
‘It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of.’
Granger Morgan, head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, said of the new figures:
‘Really dismaying. We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren.’
So why is nothing being done about the problem? In a new study, Who’s Holding Us Back?, Greenpeace reports:
‘The corporations most responsible for contributing to climate change emissions and profiting from those activities are campaigning to increase their access to international negotiations and, at the same time, working to defeat progressive legislation on climate change and energy around the world.’
While making public statements that ‘appear to show their concern for climate change’, these corporations are fighting fiercely to prevent action. This helps explain, Greenpeace notes, ‘why decisive action on the climate is being increasingly ousted from the political agenda’. They add:
‘These polluting corporations often exert their influence behind the scenes, employing a variety of techniques, including using trade associations and think tanks as front groups; confusing the public through climate denial or advertising campaigns; making corporate political donations; as well as making use of the “revolving door” between public servants and carbon-intensive corporations.’
In the US alone, approximately $3.5 bn is invested annually in lobbying activities at the federal level. In recent years, Royal Dutch Shell, the US Chamber of Commerce, Edison Electric Institute, PG&E, Southern Company, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips all made the top 20 list of lobbyists. The climate campaign organisation 350.org estimates that 94 per cent of US Chamber of Commerce contributions went to climate denier candidates.
Groups like the American Petroleum Institute, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Australian Coal Association, often campaign directly ‘against measures that would cut greenhouse gas emissions, or run campaigns in support of unfettered fossil fuel energy’.
Attempts by the EU to increase its emissions reductions target for 2020 from 20 per cent to 30 per cent has been undermined by the heavy lobbying of carbon-intensive interests, including BASF, ArcelorMittal and Business Europe.
Tzeporah Berman, Co-director of the Climate and Energy Program at Greenpeace International, says that this latest study:
‘shows beyond a doubt that there are a handful of powerful polluting corporations who are exerting undue influence on the political process to protect their vested interests’.
Two years ago, we challenged James Hansen to sum up governments’ responses to the threat of climate change in a single word. He chose ‘misleading’. Why misleading? Because ‘it’s mostly greenwash’, he told us. (Email, June 18, 2009)
We then asked him to give a rough figure to indicate how far he felt governments had moved towards tackling climate change. Would he say that governments were 1%, 20%, 50%, 70%,… of the way there? We knew this was imprecise, but we wanted to get an idea of his gut feeling. He responded:
‘0%, because they are starting down a wrong track, requiring 1-2 decades to reset. “Goals” for emission reduction, cap-and-trade with offsets, while continuing to build more coal-fired power plants and developing unconventional fossil fuels is a disastrous path. It is meant to fool people, even themselves. A strategic approach would instead recognize the geophysical boundary conditions, specifically that coal emissions must be rapidly phased out.’
He added some disturbing analysis:
‘The fundamental economic requirement concerns the price of (cheap, subsidized) fossil fuels relative to alternatives (energy efficiency, renewables, and other carbon-free energies) — there must be a rising price on carbon emissions (a fee, at the coal/oil/gas source or port of entry). As that price rises and the competition ensues we would reach a point where alternatives suddenly take off and we move beyond the dirty fossil fuel era. The fear that this will in fact occur is what drives the fossil interests who have totally taken control of our governments’ actions.’
Even the cautious and conservative International Energy Authority has now warned that under currently planned policies:
‘rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.’
Be in no doubt, the corporate takeover of government policy really has taken humanity to the very edge of the climate abyss. Naturally enough, the corporate media is keen to avoid honestly addressing an issue that so violently conflicts with its profit-maximising agenda, its need for endless economic growth, its heavy dependence on corporate advertising.
We need to Occupy Wall Street, of course – we need to win back our governments from corporate control. But we also need to occupy the media space that for so long has been monopolised by Wall Street’s propaganda arm. We need to occupy the corporate media system that is fiddling the same idiotic tune even as our world – this precious, threatened planet on which we depend for our very survival – burns.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
Please write to:
Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian
Chris Blackhurst, editor of the Independent
John Mullin, editor of the Independent on Sunday
James Stephenson, BBC News at Ten editor
This Alert is Archived here:
Climate Crisis The Collapse In Corporate Media Coverage
Poisoning link threatens future of fracking – headline in today’s Independent
The full quote from the Green Party in response was:
“As evidence mounts of the potentially negative effects of shale gas extraction both here in the UK and abroad, the need for a thorough and fully independent investigation into the environmental and health impacts of fracking becomes ever more urgent.
The proposed changes to the UK’s planning laws could make it far easier for companies such as Cuadrilla to gain permission for shale gas operations, while at the same time Ministers are failing to address the weaknesses in the regulatory framework which should protect local communities. Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP recently quizzed Defra Secretary Caroline Spelman about the fact that, according to the European Commission, the chemicals used in fracking are not registered for this purpose under the REACH regulation, which could make it illegal. Almost one month on, we are still waiting for a response.
Given these concerns, and the fact that any significant investment in shale gas will seriously undermine the UK’s transition towards genuinely clean energy, the Government should halt operations and impose a moratorium on new shale gas exploration – at least until a more detailed and independent assessment is forthcoming.”
I can also reveal that I am involved in the early stages of planning a high profile national fracking meeting that will hopefully launch a national consortium of anti-fracking interests and raise the profile of the issue among the general public. We are provisionally planning it for mid-March, which could be ideal timing as I have a hunch we could be fighting a General Election campaign in May. (Remember you heard that here first!)
Euro-zone Summit: Green Party calls for sustainable economics that puts society, democracy and jobs first.
|The official party response to the recent Euro-zone summit is here:
Green Party economic policy is here:
For a brilliant overview of a range of ‘greener’ alternatives I highly recommend:
‘Babylon and Beyond: The Economics of Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Globalist and Radical Green Movement’ by Derek Wall
Or ‘The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Politics’ also by Derek Wall.
For an alternative perspective, check out Molly Scott Cato’s blog and website: