Fracking suspended after earthquakes

2011-06-01 12:44

London - A mining company has halted drilling for shale gas in England after scientists said two small earthquakes might be linked to the controversial process, known as "fracking".

The British Geological Survey recorded a 1.5 magnitude quake on Friday near Blackpool in northwest England, within 2km of the gas exploration site. A 2.3 magnitude quake was recorded in May.

The geological survey's head of seismology, Brian Baptie, said on Tuesday that the two quakes appeared to have "a similar location and mechanism".

Cuadrilla Resources said it had stopped hydraulic fracturing, or fracking - the process of extracting gas by pummelling rocks deep underground with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals - while it studied data from the quakes and consulted with experts.

"We expect that this analysis and subsequent consultation will take a number of weeks to conclude and we will decide on appropriate actions after that," said chief executive Mark Miller.

Environmental impact

Shale gas extraction, pioneered by the US and Canada, is forecast to boost global recoverable natural gas resources by 40%. But ecologists are alarmed by its environmental impact.

The biggest worry is that cancer-causing compounds used in the process could pollute water supplies. High levels of methane gas also have been found in tap water near some US drilling sites, with YouTube videos showing people apparently setting fire to tap water.

Like the US, European nations are keen to reduce their reliance on imported oil and gas. But they have been wary of fracking.

Poland has announced a major investment in shale gas to break free of dependence on Russian gas imports, but France put a similar project on hold and has taken a first legislative step toward banning shale gas extraction. Germany has some test projects, but many in the country have concerns about the environmental impact.

Last week British lawmakers said the country should develop its shale gas resources to reduce reliance on imported energy supplies. The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change committee said there was little risk to underground water aquifers as long as drilling wells were constructed properly.

The Cuadrilla exploration scheme, which began in March, is currently Britain's only shale gas project.

  • Paralegal - 2011-06-01 12:57

    Take note South African politicians! Please chase the bastard oil companies out of our Karoo!

      NickArmstron - 2011-06-01 14:19

      Paralegal - WELL SAID sir/madam! Keep the greedy corporate-capitalist vermin OUT of our natural beauty! All R & D research, focus, time, and monies should now only be spent on clean, green, renewable energy sources - ie Geo-Thermal; Solar; Wind; Tidal; Hydro-Electric etc - and the numerous clean options (eg battery-cells) for motor vehicles... Technology that's been suppressed by the global scourge of Big Oil vermin! And - in 30 to 40 years time - our technology might have learnt to harness Nuclear Fusion (what happens in the Sun) - an infinite source of energy who's by-products are harmless inert gases... Fossil fuels are in the sunset of their usefulness - their time is almost up - it is time the world's thinking changed to that of loving our Earth - of development and growth, and the development of our future energy sources, in harmony with our Earth... Or the Earth will 'change' us... F#ck all the vermin oil companies!!!

  • Green Oaks - 2011-06-01 12:58

    Fracking Hell !!!

  • buzz - 2011-06-01 13:17

    No fracking in the Karoo - or anywhere in SA!

      william.botha - 2011-06-01 14:50

      Yep, they must frack off.

  • Mark Couzyn - 2011-06-01 13:22

    The usual hysterical gibberish; -the quakes have not yet been shown to be as a result of "fracking", -the "cancer causing compounds" are injected thousands of meters below the water table and are highly unlikely to result in pollution of the water table, the "fire water" depicted in the movie GASLAND has been shown to be as a result of boreholes being drilled through coal seams resulting in disolved gas which has a completely different chemical signature to shale gas (from fracking).

      Paralegal - 2011-06-01 13:48

      Okay, then invite the oil companies to frack on your property and leave the Karoo to the rest of us and future generations, thank you very much.

      Geetsy - 2011-06-01 13:54

      I used to think that water deep below the surface could not contaminate ground water until millions of litres of water from all the old Gauteng mines reached the surface and now present a massive challenge.

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-06-01 14:09

      "Not yet shown" and "highly unlikely" is also not convincing Mr Couzyn. And it is not "cancer causing compounds .. it is cancer causing compunds. That they cause cancer is not in dispute, only whether they will find their way into drinking water to actually cause instances of cancer.

      umlaut - 2011-06-01 14:49

      Yes and you also probably predicted that there will never be an earthquake in Japan destroying the N power plants.!! There is a potential earthquake to happen in the Karoo area and this fracking can trigger it. You must really hate SA as to take a chance like this destroying something beautiful.---and the noise of trucks--and the dust and all this can happen a few hundred M away from a farm house.--- And all the other arguments that you know about. Will you give a personal guarantee that nothing will happen??--- Like stake all your possessions??????

      Worldwise - 2011-06-01 15:31

      Mark, I live in the Karoo. There is no surface water. It is all contained in aquifiers. To get to the shale they have to drill through the aquifiers. What if the cancer causing chemicals leak into the aquifier? Don't tell me it can't happen, I know how the oil industry works and I know how wells are drilled and the dangers thereof. Also don't tell me that the chemicals used are secret, because any employee exposed to them has the right to know what they are and their effects, which by law has to be on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Which by law must accompany the chemical and be available to the employee. The employee also has the right to protection from the chemicals and compensation after accidental exposure. If the chemicals are so benign, why keep them a secret from the public? I have water rights and I pump my absolutely clean water directly from the aquifier using a windpump. Its clear and can be drunk coming out of the pipe. Fracking requires millions of litres of water. Where will the oil companies get this in the Karoo and will my well dry up due to the water table dropping?

  • 50something - 2011-06-01 13:37

    Ja, we told you so ne?

  • Nielen Snr - 2011-06-01 13:48

    Mark, thanks for some sense here. I don't understand the people who want to condemn something that could be of immense value before it has been investigated. How much are the complainers prepared to pay for energy? Do they enjoy paying through the neck for electricity, petrol, etc and with no hope of it ever getting cheap? Maybe it does turn out to be bad, but maybe not. Let us investigate first, then judge.

      rinuseckard - 2011-06-01 14:15

      Let me make a statement - you can keep me to it in 10 years should fracking be done in the Karoo. "Regular South African citizens will not benefit much (other than getting jobs) from the gas the oil companies produce. It will all be exported for large profit margins". There, I said it. Shell et el can say what they like, in the end all they want is money and they'll say anything to get it. And they will not care about the mess they leave behind.

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-06-01 14:44

      The age of fossil fuels is OVER. Is it gone, why try and put it on life support. IF Shell had said that the profits from fracking were to pay for research into alternatives, then that would be different. They are just going to burn both the gas and the money. They can frack off. If the crude oil price gets above $150/barrel then perhaps the financiers of the world will turn their wallets to research rather than more of the same.

      Gandalf - 2011-06-01 14:45

      I'm in full agreement with rinus. We'll never see the benefit of this. Whatever profits are made will be to the benefit of the companies and the government. And we know full well where the govt will put the money...

      Redwine - 2011-06-01 15:06

      Sasol and Mossgas both produce petrol/diesel from gas. Please explain to us how you or the country in general have benefitted from this. Whilst on the topic a big shame that these pages only diss Shell but are silent about Sasol also wanting to go and rape the Karoo.

      Wollie - 2011-06-01 15:16

      As I own a farm earmarked for Fracking, I have asked Shell for their business plans. As a business man, I asked them to convince me of the business of fracking. The Financial benefit. Guess what. The consultants Shell hired and Shell themselves just looked at me like I was a complete mad-man for asking them the question. There is no real business benefit in this for us as the people of SA.

      Horst - 2011-06-01 16:12

      Hmm, looking at the voting button, at the moment 2 for and 10 against. I don't understand this, most of the arguments put up against fracking are flimsy, hysterical, unrealistic, unsubstantiated and dogmatic. In my opinion fracking is environmentally much better than coal mining. And an other thought if we as a nation want to progress we have to take risks and I think this is a minor risk. We should rather listen to the prof.

      Wollie - 2011-06-01 17:17

      @Horst Here are some pertinent questions Shell are not answering about Fracking: What is in the fluid you are using? How much will I make out of this (i.e. some sort of rental income)? If something does goe wrong, will you compensate me for the loss of income I, r my family, will suffer in perpetuity? Will I be compensated for the loss of property value due to industrial prosesses going on, on my property? I use my farm, other than as a business, as a refuge to escape the stress of the city, how will I be compensated for the loss of my quality of life? Until Shell answers these and other questions to my satisfaction, I will not agree with fracking.

      umlaut - 2011-06-01 21:10

      It has been investigated--it is bad- think of the cost to treat cancer of thousands of people--and the heartbreak of seeing animals die and the lost fauna that could have been a medical cure for some disease, or just the beauty of that-think of the lost jobs for thousands of years with tourism that stopped. Think of the drop in property values. You are paying for any energy in any case and bio fuel can be produced in other parts of SA and sold to the Karoo farmers, or whatever, but other solutions better than fracking will be used. Say the profit for SA will be R1000 mil. and for the Shell co. 5 x that over a period of 8 or 10 years. The loss for SA over 200 years could be a 2000000 x that put together.

  • James - 2011-06-01 13:52

    So professor, people are getting hysterical for no reason? First there was a negative impact in the US, now the UK. IS SA somehow how absolved?

      Mike or Mpho - 2011-06-01 14:12

      Guess who has shares in Shell?!

  • Currie_Mafia - 2011-06-01 13:52

    We don't need to be Shell shocked...stay the fracking hell away from us !!!

  • LouisFLY - 2011-06-01 13:54

    We don't wanna listen..just using resource after resource..

  • Gorilla - 2011-06-01 14:21

    Sad thing is that regarding Fracking, we have environmental bunny hugging lobbyists who now more about the space shuttle than they do about Fracking getting all high and mighty about things they have little insight into instead of listening to common sense by professionals in the field.

      Craig - 2011-06-01 14:53

      I disagree. There seems to be some evidence from non-greenies that fracking 'could' be environmentally damaging. As far as I am concerned the jury is still out on this one, and I certainly don't trust the ANC government to make the decision on our behalf. The gas will still be there in five years time and will probably fetch a better price. By then the 'first world' will have decided whether the process is reasonably safe, and we will have a better idea of the impact on SKA (if we get it) and the Karoo, which I consider a national asset (even if you don't).

      umlaut - 2011-06-01 15:10

      I know nothing about nuclear power generation but I for sure won't go walking around one collecting some steel rods to do some welding at home with. So you are saying that the 70% of scientists that are against it and are not paid to say twisted things have no common sense and they are bunny hugging lobbyists. If one scientist had his doubt about this you shouldn't do it.

      Gungets Tuft - 2011-06-01 15:31

      Go and check what the "common sense professionals" have done to other parts of the world where there has been "no negative effect" of their operations. Trust the "professionals" at your peril - their skills are driving profits, not making sure they leave a sustainable environment when they leave. For every ONE report you have of Shell and big oil being responsible I have 50 where they have not been. Take me on - that is a challenge!!

  • boxer1266 - 2011-06-01 14:28

    Fracking leaves a huge negative impact on the environment and water sources. If we allow it to continue then we and our children will and will have to deal with the fallout. What next are we going to do just because of greed?! There are better options to power the world and provide sustainable energy for all but there are a bunch of greedy people in this world who only care about the bottom line!

  • Grunk - 2011-06-01 14:32

    Say that, miracles of miracles, fracking is found not to have any harmful environmental effects. Let's take this question of "immense value" a bit further. The only immensity of value I am concerned about is its direct value to all (not some) SA citizenry. Surely we should be looking NOW at the real costs (not as set out by the Oil Companies which will be exaggerated to hell and and back) of the exercise and be formulating plans for making sure we screw the best (and most transparent) deal possible if the it ultimately goes forward.

  • Gazelle - 2011-06-01 15:22

    Arkansas Earthquakes Decline After 'Fracking' Injection Well Closures LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The number and strength of earthquakes in central Arkansas have noticeably dropped since the shutdown of two injection wells in the area, although a state researcher says it's too early to draw any conclusions. "We have definitely noticed a reduction in the number of earthquakes, especially the larger ones," said Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey. "It's definitely worth noting." The Center for Earthquake Research and Information recorded around 100 earthquakes in the seven days preceding the shutdown earlier this month, including the largest quake to hit the state in 35 years – a magnitude 4.7 on Feb. 27. A dozen of the quakes had magnitudes greater than 3.0. In the days since the shutdown, there have been around 60 recorded quakes, with only one higher than a magnitude 3.0. The majority were between magnitudes 1.2 and 2.8. The two injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater from natural-gas production. One is owned by Chesapeake Energy, and the other by Clarita Operating. They agreed March 4 to temporarily cease injection operations at the request of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission.

  • Riley786 - 2011-06-01 16:05

    Oil companies who is inconsiderate of environmental impact ot continue to pursue profits at the expense of communities is not 3ple botom line contious nd thus have to feel the pinch through our purchase power !!!feel it

  • Kaliel - 2011-06-01 16:36

    Even if Fracking is safe just think about the consequences. More roads, more jobs, more people, more infrastructure, more pollution, more consumption of other finite resources and in general just more and more destruction of what is currently a relatively untouched environment. What you going to do when its all gone, you cannot eat money, you cannot eat development. When will humans realise that from the earths' prespective development = cancer, a cancer that is destroying the environment we all depend on to survive. Once that environment and all it's finite resources are gone we are gone too. How can you not see that? If everyone rode a bike or used public transport or walked where they could would we need all that gas?. If everyone had small families would we need all that food? If everyone ate less meat, drove fewer cars, bought less crap would we need to rape the very world we depend on to survive at such a horrific rate? As a species we have written our own history already - extinction is our future and the greedy lead the way.

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