Top UK scientists say fracking is safe

July 20th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A landmark British investigation into has concluded that the controversial practice is safe with little risk to health and the environment.

The review, by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, says fracking can be managed effectively in Britain – as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for the to say they no longer want it banned. I bet you than even if the NZ Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment comes out with the same conclusions, the will ignore the science and maintain total opposition to it.

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40 Responses to “Top UK scientists say fracking is safe”

  1. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    I object! All these “distinghished” scientists must be in the payroll of big-oil and the mining industries.
    Fracking is too dangerous and will only accelerate that impending man-made calamity, AGW.

    Any serious Luddite, tree-hugger, and tofu-eater should oppose fracking and defend Gaia to the last breath.

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  2. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    The Greens wont ignore the science, they will just refer to THEIR science.

    One guy, one time, in a non-peer reviewed article said something that could be taken to mean it wasnt 100% safe.

    Dig a little deeper and you will find that one guy isnt actually a scientist and the article was from a Green magazine in Germany.

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  3. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention, the guy WAS a senior member of the IPCC.

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  4. Paulus (2,661 comments) says:

    In view of this report we must have another enquiry – chaired by Russel Norman, and have members of Greenpeace as its members.
    Soon sort out the non believers.

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  5. George Patton (350 comments) says:

    Excellent news – natural gas is clean compared to coal, so good all round

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  6. william blake (109 comments) says:

    “as long as operational best practices are implemented and enforced through regulation.”

    and its not as if they live in ‘the ring of fire’.

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  7. KevinH (1,236 comments) says:

    This report sounds contradictory, for instance they say it is safe, but only if best practice is followed. Am I to conclude from that statement that if best practice is not followed it is unsafe?

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  8. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    and its not as if they live in ‘the ring of fire’.

    Yeah, never know what could happen – maybe fracking would awaken a taniwha that will come out of Rangitoto and start rampaging through downtown Auckland…

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  9. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    and its not as if they live in ‘the ring of fire’.

    More as if we live in ‘the ring of Green lunacy‘.

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  10. mavxp (492 comments) says:

    Excellent – sensible people have evaluated it and showed it to be safe.

    The “straw that broke the camels back” argument for not doing it NZ because of our position on a plate boundary is simply laughable.

    Grasping at straws more like. Or worse -feeding the fear amongst the illiterati and those prone to conspiracy theories- usual Green party MO.

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  11. David Garrett (7,538 comments) says:

    DPF is quite correct; even if the Commissioner for the Environment comes out and says she has no concerns, that will not make an iota of difference for the melons. The CFE said not only did she have no concerns about the use of 1080, but that if was hugely beneficial for the enviroment given the damage possums do. The Greens rejected those findings out of hand.

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  12. Mark Thomson (84 comments) says:

    In the interests of balance…

    http://www.propublica.org/article/injection-wells-the-poison-beneath-us
    “in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn’t always work.”

    http://www.propublica.org/article/feds-link-water-contamination-to-fracking-for-first-time
    “federal environment officials today scientifically linked underground water pollution with hydraulic fracturing, concluding that contaminants found in central Wyoming were likely caused by the gas drilling process.”

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  13. RRM (10,012 comments) says:

    Well this leftist / professional engineer is much more in favour of development WITH sensible regulation, than blanket bans in the name of the snails or “unknown possible negative outcomes”… my 2c.

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  14. hj (7,063 comments) says:

    “With the price of oil so high, firms are scrambling to pump it out of ever more remote and costly crevices. Over the past decade the oil industry’s annual spending on exploration and production has increased fourfold in nominal terms, while oil production is up by only 12%. The big services companies, which invest heavily in technology (see chart), have been growing by around 10% a year. According to McKinsey, a consultancy, OFS companies grossed around $750 billion last year.”
    http://www.economist.com/node/21559358

    “the stoneage didn’t end with the end of stone and the oil age” blah! blah!
    where’s the alternative to fossil fuels?

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  15. hj (7,063 comments) says:

    The issue here is the growth has no limits paradigm and the human mind as the Ultimate Resource. Professor Julian Simon is pretty much the National Parties guiding light.

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  16. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    Well this leftist / professional engineer is much more in favour of development WITH sensible regulation, than blanket bans in the name of the snails or “unknown possible negative outcomes”… my 2c.

    Stop lying to yourself, admit that you are a closeted right winger! You may want to vote Labour, but deep down you long for a cold-hearted National PM to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king.

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  17. Kimble (4,443 comments) says:

    Am I to conclude from that statement that if best practice is not followed it is unsafe?

    Which would make it similar to:

    : driving
    : swimming
    : open heart surgery
    : you get the idea.

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  18. David Garrett (7,538 comments) says:

    RRM: I too see the closet rightie in you mate…too much exposure to us eminently reasonable chaps here at KB

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  19. Manolo (14,049 comments) says:

    DG, your profound psychological analysis of “liberal” RRM’s mind is spot on. He longs for a return to sanity and the right side (pun intended).

    I believe your talents in Parliament were wasted. Start a professional practice now. :-)

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  20. Richard Watts (11 comments) says:

    The problems of Frac’ing are:

    1. The number of wells required.
    2. The rate of drilling required.
    3. The number of wells needing to be abandoned.
    4. The damage to the roads from heavy vehicles.
    5. Whether the associated gas is flared or piped.
    6. The disposal of produced water.
    7. The weakness of local regulation and enforcement.

    Each well isn’t any different from a conventional well but you make up for it in number and relative weak enforcement. Texas doesn’t have a problem because if you screw up they sue you for millions and possibly haul you off to state prison. They have the experience to deal with the oil industry due to fact that they’ve been doing it for closing in on a century.

    So yes if they’re frac’ing in Texas it’s fine but I bet we’ll screw it up.

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  21. Gosman (324 comments) says:

    “The issue here is the growth has no limits paradigm?”

    Why is this the issue?

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  22. David Garrett (7,538 comments) says:

    One problem with your analysis “Richard” – well two actually. firstly, we have been fraccing wells in his country for more than 25years. Secondly, most of the effects you refer to are side effects of drilling however the completion is done.

    As the the “number of wells” red herring, perhaps you should google “side tracked oil wells” and learn something. As it is, your post is a classic illustration of a little knowledge being dangerous.

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  23. Spam (588 comments) says:

    The problems of Frac’ing are:
    1. The number of wells required.
    2. The rate of drilling required.
    3. The number of wells needing to be abandoned.

    You mean how fracking makes wells more productive, and hence you need less of them (i.e. less drilling) to produce the same hydrocarbon reserves?

    4. The damage to the roads from heavy vehicles.

    Seriously? That is numer 4 on your list?

    5. Whether the associated gas is flared or piped.

    In New Zealand, it has been to access gas, so yeah, its piped.

    6. The disposal of produced water.

    A problem with gas and oil production, not particular to fracking

    7. The weakness of local regulation and enforcement.
    Each well isn’t any different from a conventional well but you make up for it in number and relative weak enforcement.

    So surely you’d applaud fracking with oversight – less wells and stronger legislation.

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  24. Richard Watts (11 comments) says:

    I have no problem with frac’ing convention wells. I was specifically talking about unconventional wells. The order of the numbers wasn’t in order of importance FYI.

    The majority of problems have been caused by the improper disposal of produced water/frac’ing fluids and there is a good incentive for companies to cut corners here because deep injection wells are expensive. IIRC about 70% of the frac’ing fluid is returned within the first two weeks of operation.

    The next major problem is the fact that each well pad often requires a convoy of trucks to drill, 50 trucks is a number which I remember as being fairly standard in the U.S.A. for a 4 well drill pad. 50 heavy trucks on a rural road is quite a significant number, remember the wear is exponentially higher as you increase the axle weight.

    Finally each well declines rapidly compared to a conventional oil well. An oil well producing 1000bbl per day will often decline to 100bbpd in as little as 12 months, this means that in order to maintain production a significant number of wells must be drilled and each well drilled must also be abandoned whether or not the company is still around.

    Would I support frac’ing? Well it wouldn’t bother me so long as I knew that the government had strong regulation and enforcement and was requiring the drilling companies to pay a bond for eventual well abandonment as well as for wear and tear/damage to the roads used. It isn’t my favourite source of energy but it sure beats lignite and many industrial uses need to burn fuel directly as a heat source and lets also not forget urea production.

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  25. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @Richard

    “Well it wouldn’t bother me so long as I knew that the government had strong regulation and enforcement and was requiring the drilling companies to pay a bond for eventual well abandonment as well as for wear and tear/damage to the roads used.”

    There are strict regulations and all mining (and drilling) companies are required to clean up after themselves and pay a heavy bond.
    The company that mines in Waihi has paid a $39 Million dollar bond that is reviewed every year.
    The following site explains what is involved in the rehabilitation of the site.

    http://www.marthamine.co.nz/environment/rehabilitation/

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  26. Richard Watts (11 comments) says:

    Mining is different from oil drilling. With the former you have major activity and then you close the mine whilst an oil or gas well could foreseeably produce for 20-30 years at a low level before finally being abandoned.

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  27. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Unlike those coal mines that are open for decades eh Dick.

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  28. David Garrett (7,538 comments) says:

    Richard: You are still showing your little knowledge….so I will try and educate you a little.

    These days, with directional and horizontal drilling, ten or a dozen wells (or perhaps more, my knowledge is a bit dated) can be drilled – “completed” is the better term – from one initial hole. So whereas 40 years ago you would have needed 40 holes, now you might need 10.

    Your point regarding road wear has already been responded to – no different from the 40 wells of 40 years ago. Production fluids – inextricably linked to what is pumped down…in New Zealand there has never been any serious suggestion that the chemicals used in fraccing in this country are other than entirely benign…the same kind of chemicals used in many foods such as ice-cream

    The reality is that the Greenies are implacably opposed to fraccing because it is likely to make a nonsense of their claim that we have already reached “peak oil”…they MUST oppose it, for ideological reasons, no matter how spurious the grounds are. Do you identify as a greenie? Are you a member of the party?

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  29. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @Richard

    “Mining is different from oil drilling.”

    Sure it is, and…..?

    “With the former you have major activity and then you close the mine whilst an oil or gas well could foreseeably produce for 20-30 years at a low level before finally being abandoned.”

    Nope. The amount and length of drilling and mining is determined by the amount of ‘stuff’ in the ground.

    Information is easy to find if you want to.
    The Martha Mine has been going for 24 years now and most major coal and coal mines operate for decades. The Stockton Coal Mine for example has been operating for 25 years and is licenced to operate for 40 years.

    By the way, I’m not sure what you are trying to say with your comment.
    What is your point?

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  30. hj (7,063 comments) says:

    Gosman (306) Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 2:02 pm
    “The issue here is the growth has no limits paradigm?”

    Why is this the issue?
    …………………………….
    Because the mainstream parties believe economic growth can continue upwards adinfinitum. The fact that we are having to go after riskier, costlier, dirtier energy is suggestive of diminishing returns.

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  31. Viking2 (11,564 comments) says:

    Bevan (3,820) Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Well this leftist / professional engineer is much more in favour of development WITH sensible regulation, than blanket bans in the name of the snails or “unknown possible negative outcomes”… my 2c.

    Stop lying to yourself, admit that you are a closeted right winger! You may want to vote Labour, but deep down you long for a cold-hearted National PM to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king.

    Yea well don’t hold your breath then.

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  32. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @hj

    “The fact that we are having to go after riskier, costlier, dirtier energy is suggestive of diminishing returns.”

    Riskier and costlier….
    Not necessarily.
    First of all, we haven’t looked everywhere yet for ‘conventional’ resources.
    Secondly, we are finding new resources or new ways of extracting conventional resources.
    Dirtier energy…
    What is dirty energy?

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  33. Richard Watts (11 comments) says:

    David:

    That kind of drilling would be more typical of Ghawar than a tight oil/gas reservoir. Your decline rates look like this: http://www.visageinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Avg-Prod-Rates-by-Year.png . I don’t know much about the local industry however if you’re doing 4 laterals per pad with 10 stage frac’. You’re looking at 40 frac’ing stages per pad and significantly more pads per reservoir. With tight oil/gas you’d need one pad every 600-1200 acres. This is a significant quantity of activity and hence you’re going to need a fair bit of oversight.

    But yeah, I don’t necessarily oppose it so long as it is monitored.

    @Andy: Mining doesn’t use http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/pwmis/images/photos/Discharge_StripperWell.jpg . And the company in charge of the stripper wells are often not the original company which drilled the wells. It costs 10s of thousands of dollars to EOL a well, multiply that by thousands of wells and it can grow into an expensive problem. My point is that it is best that it never be allowed to get to that stage.

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  34. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    It’s not a windmill AO, it’s not a windmill with fairies dancing and white rabbits eating from the hands of 4 year old children around it’s perimeter while nearby a babbling brook carries sustainable hapu of eels and koura to to the tangata whenua.

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  35. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Ah Dick, been doing a bit of google action re: drilling lingo eh fella to bump up your cred.

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  36. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @Richard

    Where does this happen in New Zealand?
    Nowhere.
    With current regulations in place this doesn’t happen here.
    That’s why your example is from the US.

    Do read this….
    http://www.marthamine.co.nz/environment/rehabilitation/
    It applies to ALL mineral exploration, including oil and gas, in New Zealand.

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  37. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    @expat

    Don’t start me off on windmills.
    The most expensive, uneconomical and environmentally destructive monstrosities built by man.

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  38. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    but but they are sustainable Andy! You must hate Gaia.

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  39. OneTrack (3,223 comments) says:

    Don’t forget the fairies and the rabbits.

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  40. Spam (588 comments) says:

    Richard Watts (9) Says:
    July 20th, 2012 at 5:40 pm
    I have no problem with frac’ing convention wells. I was specifically talking about unconventional wells. The order of the numbers wasn’t in order of importance FYI.

    As yet, no unconventionals in NZ.

    The majority of problems have been caused by the improper disposal of produced water/frac’ing fluids and there is a good incentive for companies to cut corners here because deep injection wells are expensive. IIRC about 70% of the frac’ing fluid is returned within the first two weeks of operation.

    Oh please! The water disposal issue is not pArticular to fracking, in fact fracking fluid is easier to dispose of than produced water, as the volumes are so much lower. Water injection wells are typically cheaper than other wells as you don’t need to bother too much about pressure management etc. water disposal is a cost of doing business.

    The next major problem is the fact that each well pad often requires a convoy of trucks to drill, 50 trucks is a number which I remember as being fairly standard in the U.S.A. for a 4 well drill pad. 50 heavy trucks on a rural road is quite a significant number, remember the wear is exponentially higher as you increase the axle weight.

    So which requires more road traffic: a frack spread (a few pumps and some tanks) or a drilling rig?

    For an added bonus, which requires more trucks in rural taranaki: a drilling campaign or a dairy farm?

    Finally each well declines rapidly compared to a conventional oil well. An oil well producing 1000bbl per day will often decline to 100bbpd in as little as 12 months, this means that in order to maintain production a significant number of wells must be drilled and each well drilled must also be abandoned whether or not the company is still around.

    so you should support fracking because the well can be produced out then suspended faster.

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