back to article Could our fear of fracking be appeased with CO2 sequestration?

A plan to use CO2 to replace the water used in controversial energy technique fracking has been met with a mixed reception by experts contacted by The Register. New Scientist reported on work done by Andres Clarens and his team at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, to pump CO2 into fracking sites, which could act as a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    THEY LIVE!

    Not content with drawing oil, gas and coal from the ground now they're drawing out the very 'Marrow' of the bone of the rock we live on.

    If the Aliens are reading this, then can you please piss off back to where you came from.

  2. W Donelson

    It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

    The American experience is that water tables and rivers are often badly polluted, and by then the Fracker companies have stolen away in the night, leaving cleanup to the state or town.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

      You have citations and actual evidence of this? If not it is pure bulls**t.

      1. Sven Coenye

        Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

        http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Waste-Water-from-Oil-Fracking-Injected-into-Clean-Aquifers-282733051.html

        While the article focuses on [accidental] direct contamination by drilling, this, plus the now almost daily occurrence of leaks in abandoned waste dumps shows where the real danger lies. And this was not an accident due to neglect but a deliberate action to avoid the true cost of their activities.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

          "almost daily occurrence of leaks in abandoned waste dumps "

          Well, apart from the obvious, "abandoned", often many, many years ago when sealing and/or securing wasn't often considered, waste dumps are usually on or very near the surface, in or above the water table. Fracking is carried out well below the level of aquifers and the water table so only the drill site itself offers the possibility of a leak and as the article points out, the cement jacket stops that and can be tested and inspected. Once finished with, they simply fill the hole with more concrete, probably stronger then the surrounding rock.

          This anti-fracking stuff seems to me to be about edge cases and fear of the unknown because "fossil fuel == bad", just as with nuclear or the current debate on e-cigs.

      2. Joe User

        Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

        Ivan 4: "You have citations and actual evidence of this? If not it is pure bulls**t."

        Apparently you're unable/unwilling to go to Google and search on "fracking groundwater contamination".... Here you go:

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/groundwater-contamination-may-end-the-gas-fracking-boom/

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140915095851.htm

        http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/05/some-states-confirm-water-pollution-from-drilling/4328859/

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/04/epa-fracking-study_n_7511836.html

        http://www.factcheck.org/2015/03/inhofe-on-fracking-water-contamination/

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

          @Joe User, I know of those and several others but the big problem with them is that they are based on hearsay, supposition and might. There isn't one of them that would actually stand up to a full EPA investigation. In fact the EPA has said to a congressional hearing they haven't found one genuine case of fracking fluids contaminating ground water.

          I leave you to your Google skills to find the references.

          1. JeffyPoooh
            Pint

            Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

            @Ivan

            The Internet proves that it's impossible to prove anything via the Internet.

            (Let it sink in. Take as much time as you need.)

          2. veti Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

            @Ivan 4: This would be the same EPA that says:

            Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells.

            It may be rare, but by denying the very possibility that it can and does happen, and by citing authorities that don't support your case, you undermine yourself.

        2. StudeJeff

          Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

          Even 0bama's corrupt EPA has come out and said there is no problem with fracking, and it must have REALLY pained them to say that.

          http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/epa-fracking-doesnt-systemically-pollute-water/article/2565607

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

      the Fracker companies have stolen away in the night, leaving cleanup to the state or town

      I have read about this on AlterNet!

      How can "the fracker companies" steal away? Don't they have a mailbox address? Maybe they are linked to the Bush family?

    3. StudeJeff

      Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

      Not true, there has been very little contamination of the water tables due to fracking and that has been limited to where the well casing was damaged or defective, and as the article points out they have good testing methods for that now.

      The scare videos out there of tap water catching on fire have nothing to do with fracking, it has to do with the geology of the area where that water comes from... in other words it's natural.

      1. Joe User

        Re: It's not about AIR, it's about WATER

        StudeJeff: "The scare videos out there of tap water catching on fire have nothing to do with fracking, it has to do with the geology of the area where that water comes from... in other words it's natural."

        You mean that same geology that previously contained the methane but now lets it seep into the groundwater after fracking has occurred? The same geology that contains the groundwater, which is now mixing with the fracking fluids due to the new cracks in the rocks? That geology? I just want to make sure that we're talking about the same thing here and not some fantasy geology concocted by the fracking companies.

  3. Bob Wheeler
    Coat

    QOTW?

    "And the problem it is supposed to prevent is not a problem "

    This applies to just about every aspect of my working life :(

    The problem now is that I just need to find my coat.

  4. Oh Matron!

    Something smells....

    "Mark Linder from global PR outfit Bell Potting"

    Seems perfectly qualified to have an informed opinion on this....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something smells....

      my thoughts exactly. in relation to Mark Linder of global PR outfit Bell Potting, I thought this song would be appropriate >> https://youtu.be/l7XKT6dqZ9Q

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    I cant imagine a way of pleasing the extremist green crowd apart from killing many and returning us to the stone age. Of course they wouldnt want to be part of the sacrifice but feel they could survive such a harsh existence.

    I wonder if it is at all related to the mentality of suicide cults

  6. Simon Rockman

    It was interesting to hear Germaine Greer on the radio at the weekend being pro-fracking.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    ""Where does the CO2 come from? It would have to be captured and transported to the site."

    This seems to be a solved problem: "we already pump CO2 into wells in the North Sea as a way of disposing of it"

    1. Mephistro

      @ Doctor Syntax

      This seems to be a solved problem: "we already pump CO2 into wells in the North Sea as a way of disposing of it"

      It's solved -more or less- when the objective is to keep pressure high in the wells, so as to extract the last barrels of oil and keep the wells under the same pressure they withstood originally. It's not so 'solved' if you take in account the costs of capture and transport, or the risks, which aren't so insignificant as these experts -paid by the industry- want us to believe. Liquefying CO2 is an energy intensive process, and the stability of the geological formations subject to these methods is not a settled matter at all. If some minor earthquake affects said geological formations, we'll find ourselves in deep shit.

      Injecting CO2 in an almost empty oil well affects a geological formation that has proven itself able to keep the high pressure without leaks for many millions of years. Injecting CO2 in shales adds too many new variables to the equation.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is called fracking for a purpose

    Fracking is the breaking the integrity of the rocks to make to oil and gas trapped there easier to get out so with the integrity broken the CO2 won't stay underground.

    Leaks are known from some projects

    1. TheVogon

      Re: It is called fracking for a purpose

      "Fracking is the breaking the integrity of the rocks to make to oil and gas trapped there easier to get out so with the integrity broken the CO2 won't stay underground"

      Not quite. Fracking breaks the local rock integrity several Kilometers underground. The rock cap above it would be more than enough to prevent future leaks - otherwise the oil or gas they were fracking for would long since have evaporated.

      "Leaks are known from some projects"

      Only from the borehole itself or waste water brought back to the surface, not by escaping from deep underground.

      1. The Axe

        Re: It is called fracking for a purpose

        "Not quite. Fracking breaks the local rock integrity ..."

        Not quite. Fracking opens up existing natural fracktures in the shale rock. The propant in the frack fluid help keep the factures open when the water pressure is reduced. The chemicals in the frack fluid help the propant get to where its needed and ensure that the nasty chemicals in the ground don't attack or block the pipework.

        1. TheVogon

          Re: It is called fracking for a purpose

          "Fracking opens up existing natural fracktures in the shale rock."

          Not quite: "Hydraulic fracturing (also hydrofracturing, hydrofracking, fracking or fraccing) is a well-stimulation technique in which rock is FRACTURED by a pressurised liquid"

          "The process involves the high-pressure injection of 'fracking fluid' (primarily water, containing sand and other proppants suspended with the aid of gelling agents) into a wellbore to create cracks in the deep-rock formations through which natural gas, petroleum, and brine will flow more freely. When the hydraulic pressure is removed from the well, small grains of hydraulic fracturing proppants (either sand or aluminium oxide) hold the fractures open."

          See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing

          Hence the name.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Misses the point

    The groundwater contamination problem with fracking has basically nothing to do with the fracturing. The issue is disposal of wastewater at the surface. Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer is just a distraction from the very real concerns.

    Not that I'm in favor of banning fracking. It's got issues but nothing compared to coal, which is what it's replacing.

    1. The Axe

      Re: Misses the point

      Real concerns like climate change? Then we should be using nuclear as much as possible. Oh, it's dangerous too. Well we as a society (and not a shouty minority) should decide if we want plentiful energy to live our modern lives with a tiny risk of something going wrong or if we should favour a bubble-wrapped existence living hand to mouth but knowing that our children & grandchildren will live healthy lives (if they can work out how to get lots of energy to keep the hospitals and pharma industries going).

      1. Martin Budden

        Re: Misses the point

        we should be using nuclear as much as possible. Oh, it's dangerous too.

        Not particularly dangerous at all: linky

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer

      How can we be sure of that ?

      Do we have an accurate map of the underground ? Do we have 100% certainty that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between the aquifers and the oil we want to mine that could be opened by high-pressure gas ?

      I've read here (and elsewhere) that the aquifers are "above" the oil shales. Yet fracking consists of pushing high-pressure gas until the shales break open. Given that pressure can simply not go down (because more pressure), it follows that it goes back up. Towards the aquifers, apparently.

      I'm not a geologist, obviously.

      Not knocking the technique, just genuinely curious.

      1. Francis Vaughan

        Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer

        Pressure travels neither up nor down, it isn't a flow.

        Shales, coal beds and tight sands (all fracked) are all deep. The only reason you are interested in them is that there is a seal above them that contains the gas. If there were no seal the gas would have long since gone. Shales, coal, and tight sands are weak. That is why you can fracture them. The seals tend to be strong and resilient - which is why they have remained intact for a few tens to hundreds of millions of years. If a hydraulic fracture was able to penetrate a seal, the seal is essentially by definition too weak to have retained the gas being exploited. So, the rather useful outcome is that the very geology that means there is an exploitable reserve to be fracked contains the fractures inside the rocks we actually want to frack.

        As above - there is a lot of misinformation and deliberate lying. Fly by night operators dumping wastewater from the fracking operations is not the same as water finding its way to the surface via fractures. Compromised well bores are the only viable path to communicate. This problem has nothing to do with fracking. But the insane "they pump CHEMICALS down the well to break up the rocks" crowd simply don't want to understand.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer

          The wastewater dumping is a serious issue in the US where it is more or less completely unregulated (not just "fly by night" operators). There's also the earthquake thing (Oklahoma now gets more earthquakes than California, and the scientific consensus is pretty clear on it being due to fracking, self-interested obfuscation aside).

          Natural gas is significantly better for the environment than coal (fracking is much less damaging than mountaintop removal mining, but the latter happens where poor people live so it's relatively ignored). Still not as good as nuclear, or renewables in places where they actually make sense (e.g. solar in the American southwest, wind in Texas). Someone will find a reason to complain about pretty much everything you try to do, but at the end of the day you have to accept tradeoffs.

        2. Mephistro

          Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer (@ Francis Vaughn)

          "The only reason you are interested in them is that there is a seal above them that contains the gas. If there were no seal the gas would have long since gone."

          This may be the case for oil and gas wells and tight sands, but shales and coal are, so to say, their own seal, i.e. they keep gas in small bubbles distributed through their mass and don't need another geological formation acting as a seal.

          This implies that , as the reason for fracking is making said shales permeable to fluids so say fluids can be recovered, once you've finished the fracking process, you end up with an entirely different kind of geological formation, i.e. a permeable rock.

          So, the question is not whether these fracked formations will leak, the question is when they will leak.

          1. TheVogon

            Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer (@ Francis Vaughn)

            "the question is when they will leak."

            And the answer is not until the several KM of non shale rock on top of them is removed...

            1. Mephistro

              @ TheVogon (was Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer (@ Francis Vaughn))

              "And the answer is not until the several KM of non shale rock on top of them is removed..."

              Disingenuous. There are fracking sites where the shales are less than a kilometre deep, and the "non shale rock on top" may be permeable and/or full of cracks. Even if the top layers of rock are solid and not permeable, injecting high pressure gas will lower the temperature of the shales and surrounding areas causing negative thermal expansion and potentially making the creation of cracks in the upper layers much more likely.

        3. veti Silver badge

          Re: Talking about how the fractures never get near the aquifer

          @Francis Vaughan: The US EPA identifies several mechanisms whereby fracking may affect drinking water, of which groundwater contamination is only one. They further say that they have identified real-world examples of several of these hypothetical mechanisms.

          And to say that "Compromised well bores ... ha[ve] nothing to do with fracking" seems to me on a par with saying that "water has nothing to do with drinking". I just can't parse that claim in any way that makes sense.

        4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          @ Francis Vaughan

          Thank you, sir, for a clear and precise explanation of this fracking issue (no pun intended).

          I now have a much better understanding of the situation, and will adjust my future comments accordingly.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Misses the point

      "The groundwater contamination problem with fracking has basically nothing to do with the fracturing."

      Says the man who's tapwater doesn't burn because it isn't loaded with methane knocked loose by fracking....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Misses the point

        Says the man who's tapwater doesn't burn because it isn't loaded with methane knocked loose by fracking....

        Says the AC that has been taken in by the well debunked film. Even the film's producer had to admit that most of it was faked.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't somebody do some proper (not funded by companies or by a green sympathiser) research?

    That way people can make an informed choice on whether fracking is a good idea, I've searched both sides of the argument and it's as clear as mud. Having said that, sticking another chemical in there after you're done is not really the brightest of ideas.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Alien

      Of course somebody could.

      And as soon as that somebody publishes the findings, they will be rubbished by the interested parties. A deluge of counter-facts will drown the results. Ad hominem attacks will ensue, and you will learn that one of the participants in the study once ran a red light, thus casting doubt on his professionalism and, by association, the validity of the study's results.

      If all that is not enough, kiddie porn will be found.

      There may well already be a "proper" study. You don't know about it because of the above.

      It's not called Big Oil for nothing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC, you do realise that fracking has been going on in the UK since the early 70s. Just look up Wytch Farm. OK that is for oil but it uses exactly the same process as for gas.

      Oh, and there have not been any adverse reports in that time.

  11. tekHedd

    It's Complicated

    The question is not whether to frack, but when, where, and how. Of course, to answer those questions you have to understand fracking and exactly what is necessary to do it responsibly in various situations. That requires learning more about fracking than I ever, ever wanted to know. It's much easier to just scream "ban it" or "allow it" and act like a total idiot. Or in other words, like everybody else.

    I wish we could trust companies and people to be responsible. Wouldn't that be nice?

  12. Offnow

    Insanity

    Carbon Dioxide is the stuff of life. It is one of the three essential ingredients of photosynthesis that our food chain depends on, that include only water and sunlight.

    It appears that plants crave more carbon dioxide for growth than currently available in the atmosphere, suggesting plant adaptation in a previous age of plentiful carbon dioxide, in which life on earth flourished and the world did not suffer catastrophic climate change as some predict today.

    The great irony is that burning coal, gas and oil undeniably promotes more growth and more food production around the world. The insanity of burying carbon dioxide, and our carbon based life with it, is beyond parody.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Insanity

      Not so insane when you think about it. The gas and oil that is extracted contains carbon that will mostly be burnt to produce CO2. So effectively the process is simply putting some of that carbon back into the ground. Hopefully, we extract more energy from the entire process than is consumed by running the process.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Insanity

        @Roland6, is it diamonds for ever? They are carbon after all. The problem is that the greens have equated CO2 with carbon - they are completely different, one is a gas the other a solid in several forms.

        One is recognised as a valuable plant food - they even add it to greenhouses to encourage plant growth, the other is a useful element in industry.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Insanity

          @Ivan 4 - I noticed when I wrote the comment that Carbon and CO2 are different and that in putting CO2 underground we would also effectively be taking some Oxygen out of circulation - which doesn't seem such a good idea. When in fact we actually want to take the Carbon out of the atmosphere - ie. convert CO2 back to Carbon compounds and Oxgen; something plants do very well, particularly those species that existed when the oil and coal deposits were originally laid down...

          I think as you imply people are getting to fixated on rising levels of CO2, hence simple ideas based on the removal of atmospheric CO2 and storing it deep underground have a logic to them; however this misses the point that the cause of the problem is the combustion of hydrocarbons. So in answer to your question, currently it doesn't seem like it will be diamonds forever but nano tubes are a possibility.

  13. Kubla Cant

    Fizz

    using CO2 would prevent fracking chemicals from contaminating drinking water supplies

    So we end up with carbonated drinking water instead? OK for cold drinks, but I don't fancy fizzy soup.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Carbon sequestration is a funny thing

    We are all horrified by storage of nuclear waste, which is dangerous for a while and of which there are relatively small quantities. But storing CO2 in the ground, in necessarily vast quantities and which is dangerous for ever, why that's just fine.

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: Carbon sequestration is a funny thing

      "...half the CO2 injected in the simulation was converted into solid carbonates within a day."

      If true, then it's very reassuring.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not put as much effort into collecting the free energy we get from the sun every day? Oil and gas reserves are there as a result of the evolution to the world in which we live today (a word in which we have thrived because of the climate and prevailing global conditions).

    One day these reserves will run out; sorry, but this has to be true, as the process to create the reserves takes millions of years. By going for fracking all we are doing is storing a bigger problem up further for future generations. Start now and develop the technologies we need and we will have almost limitless energy. 1980-2020 will probably go down in history as the lost opportunity to do the right thing. There will be countless case studies written by academics about this in the future.

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      How's that solar powered airplane doing?

      I'd settle for an 80/20-rule solution. 80% of the CO2 solved for 20% of the cost. The last 20% is not worth it.

      E-cars will soon be viable. Don't hold your breath for e-airplanes.

    2. Fatman

      Collecting "free" energy...

      <quote>Why not put as much effort into collecting the free energy we get from the sun every day? </quote>

      Because, in a nutshell, it will NOT completely solve the problem. Nor will wind power. Both suffer from the SAME PROBLEM - availability varies. With solar, it's time of day (i.e. nothing at night), with wind - calm winds does NOT spin turbines. And, if you can't store the "free" energy in some manner, it is wasted.

      In most countries around the world, electricity is a huge source of energy. Electric power grids see fluctuating daily demands that are time of day, day of week and seasonal in nature. If electricity can not be used at the time of generation, it is wasted,

      Storing excess generation capacity is, at the time, an inefficient process, regardless of source. IF efforts can be put to improving the efficiency of storing excess generation, then perhaps some good will become of your idea.

      Power grid loads fall into three different categories:

      1) base load - Base load is often provided by power plants that are not very 'agile' in nature (i.e. time delays in ramping up the power generated). Examples are nuke plants and some coal fired plants. These plants like to be run within a defined output range, and do not react well to demand spikes.

      2) somewhat predictable varied load (time of day, day of week, season) - Demand increases that occur during the day as people wake up, and go about their day's activities.

      3) peak load which can be weather related - An example is a higher aircon demand on a hot day. Here is one area where a solar PV array CAN be of use is when it is employed on site to feed a local time of day related load - like aircon. Having a large aircon load, with some or most of it supplied by solar can reduce the demand on the power grid, and lower the use of expensive turbine peaking units.

      But, in order to make better use of that free energy from the sun, we must come with a better mechanism to STORE IT, when we don't need it.

  17. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    This...

    "...half the CO2 injected in the simulation was converted into solid carbonates within a day."

    New respect for sequestration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: This...

      This 'team' claims their tabletop chemistry simulation shows what will really happen underground, just as some climate scientists claim their computer models are as good as the real thing. Forgive me if I'm skeptical.

  18. DanceMan

    Shales, coal beds and tight sands (all fracked) are all deep

    "Out of 44,000 wells fracked between 2010 and 2013 in the United States, researchers found that 6,900 (16 per cent) were fractured less than a mile from the surface and another 2,600 wells (six per cent) were fractured above 3,000 feet, or 900 metres."

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2015/07/27/High-Risk-Shallow-Fracking/?utm_source=mondayheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=270715

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like