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More Kahya

Damian Kahya at Greenpeace has another Greenpeace-style article about fracking.

It's not shale gas, it's not conventional oil - it's shale oil they are looking for.

Cuadrilla is looking for shale oil in Balcombe and the South East, not conventional oil supplies  - meaning it’s likely to have to frack there for any reserves it finds, according to papers filed by the company.

This contradicts suggestions in papers such as the Sun that the Balcombe site is not linked to the row over fracking.

If you follow the link he gives you find the first sentence of the Cuadrilla papers reads as follows.

Balcombe-2 in PEDL-244 is planned as essentially a re-evaluation of the upper section of the Balcombe-1well, drilled some 10m away on the same site in 1986. Balcombe-1 was drilled to a total depth of 5560ft into the Upper Lias, and was plugged and abandoned. The plan now is to drill a vertical pilot hole termed ‘Balcombe-2' followed by a planned sidetrack to horizontal for non-hydraulically fractured completion and production testing.

Looks like the Sun got it right then.

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Reader Comments (27)

Do you remember the 'Yes, Minister' episode where the locals were up in arms about some local development which would produce 'metadioxin' (which in fact doesn't really exist) simply because it was a substance with 'dioxin' in its name.
Same applies. 'Fracturing' equals 'fracking'. I mean ... stands to reason, dunnit?
Further evidence that Greenpeace are either fundamentally dishonest or fundamentally stupid.
In fact The Sun is wrong: Balcombe is linked to fracking — but only because the eco-numpties say it is.
Good article in the DT by Douglas Carswell, incidentally, on the subject of "eco-loons"!

Aug 20, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

It would seem reasonable to assume that at the moment not even Cuadrilla fully understands what might be needed to make oil flow in commercial quantities. The point is; so what if it needs to frack?100% of the evidence says that there is no problem with fracking which is done properly. Greenpeace are clutching at straws.

Aug 20, 2013 at 2:51 PM | Registered CommenterDung

An important thing to note in the Caudrilla document on Page 7. In the Baseline Information section point 2 reads:

Data from the Conoco well drilled in 1986 Balcombe 1 well identifies that the Ashdown Beds groundwater has relatively high gas readings Methane 54,000ppm Ethane 1,335ppm₄

I wonder if there are any borehole water supplies that could be lit with a match.

Aug 20, 2013 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

It has to be remembered that Greenpeace has to keep the useful idiots on-song. They will say anything to keep the propaganda going.

As founder Patrick Moore said, the environmetal movement "abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism."

Aug 20, 2013 at 3:12 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Searching the document for 'frac' :
"No fractures are induced hydraulically during this treatment".

Harrabin tweeted this non-story. Clearly he is still, in his own words, "in the Greenpeace tent".

Aug 20, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

From the Balcombe-2 well planning application, seismic/geological overview:

The well is located at the same place as the Balcombe-1 well drilled by Conoco in 1986. [snip reference to figure] The original objectives were the Portland sandstone, Ashdown Sands and Kimmeridge Sandstones. A number of oil and gas shows were recorded in the well but none proved to be economic. [Note - Conoco would have drilled for conventional oil and gas and "uneconomic" at the time was oil at $10 /bbl]

The target formation for the Lower Stumble well is the Middle to Upper Jurassic including the Corallian Sandstone, Kimmeridge and Portland Sandstone".

[My comments]

Further of interest, a local borehole (ie not an exploration well) on the structure map is marked as "gas shows" which might indicate the structure is naturally leaking into the shallower intervals. Not an uncommon occurence.

Aug 20, 2013 at 3:31 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

However, this is interesting in the drilling operation submission for the planning permission:

Testing Procedure

The main aim of the Lower Stumble exploratory well is to test for natural gas/oil trapped in the shale and thin sandstone layers in the Upper Jurassic Formations which lie directly beneath the crest of the Bolney (Lower Stumble) Anticline. The company might test the Portland Sandstone if shows of gas are witnessed during the final stages of drilling. This would be a short test known as a drill stem test or "DST") and is carried out with the drilling rig on site for a short period of up to 2 -8 hours. Testing the Portland would take a lesser priority than to test any discovered shale formations and would only be tested if the shale gas was not present during drilling. If it was decided to test the Portland then a typical DST would follow the example test procedure detailed below and depicted in the test equipment photogrpah No's 11 and 12 under Appendix 1.

Testing the shale layers (known as stages) will be the main purpose of the Lower Stumble exploratory drilling operation and will only take place if sufficient gas or oil is encountered in each stage during the drilling operation

[My bold for emphasis]

So this reads much more ambiguously than a pure exploration well for oil or gas in sands. The next couple of paragraphs discuss testing gas flow, assuming sufficient natural fractures in the "stages". they are expecting a range of poor to good permeability, but good natural fractures. If they don't find that, hydraulic stimulation might be required.

Not sure how other "evil fossil fuel" bods like myself might interpret that document, is it a conventional oil and gas exploration well? Is there a precedent for conventional production from those formations in the south of England? Or should that be read as the language of a shale gas well?

Aug 20, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist


I posted the link in the parish council files to the section of comp log over the shallow gas cut sand a few days back here

So the residents have been advised about that from Cuadrilla.

Aug 20, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Reading the document cited by Greenpeace, I don't see how anyone can think it is a "shale oil" well. And in fact the document cited by Greenpeace seems contradictory to the one attached to the planning permission which I quoted from above. The Greenpeace cited document clearly shows a sidetrck intended to drill horizontally into the micrite formation within the Kimmeridge interval. This is a coccolith limestone and the stimulation would be with 10% hydrochloric acid ie partial dissolution of the limestone to open up the pores. Conventional oil or gas, albeit with some stimulation.

Note that geologically the coccolith micrite limestone as the white stone bands in outcrop have shale oils either side, which would be potential source rocks into the (probably low porosity) micrite limestone reservoir. Still hard to describe this as "shale oil as that woud then label all Kimmeridge Clay sourced wells in the North Sea as "shale gas" or "shale oil"!

Good description of the geology here

I am wondering if the planning permission document has stuff in it which was copied in from another application by mistake? It certainly doesn't look the document cited by Greenpeace.

Aug 20, 2013 at 4:10 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Pharos - thanks for that, I missed it!

Absolutely Priceless! So the Ashdown Beds, widespread shallow aquifer, are already naturally contaminated by natural gas! And yet people are demonstrating about the risk of something happening which has already happened naturally!

Its beyond parody!


Aug 20, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

"naturally contaminated by natural gas"

So drawing some of it off through drilling might reduce the problem? I bet that doesn't register with GP et al.

Aug 20, 2013 at 5:15 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

thinkingscientist: Thank you for everything you've been teaching this callow yoof on shale, at least while I've been paying attention (intermittent at best). The natural contamination is clearly a terrific geological joke. Worth calling Josh?

Aug 20, 2013 at 5:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Will have one on this v soon. This whole anti-Fracking thing is a rich seam for cartoons ;-)

Aug 20, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Registered CommenterJosh

Despite the fears expressed by others, that this site is just a tight circle of like-minds, I do feel that it is helping me with expansion of my own knowledge of the various processes and procedures involved, as many of the contributors do seem to be very learned in the many fields involved. Josh manages to wrap much of what is being said in most exquisite fashion – who said a picture speaks a thousand words? BTW, Josh, any chance of expanding on my picture of CO2 molecule Del-boys trading heat in the upper atmosphere (see “A review of gas well emissions” – Aug 14, 2013 at 10:34 AM)? If it can be done, I have little doubt you could do it.

Aug 20, 2013 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Practically all oil and gas that have ever been drilled had bituminous shales as sourcerock. About the only exception is coalbed methane.
The reason is simply that dark shales (and coal) are just about the only rocks that contain large amounts of organics.
So in that sense all oil is shale oil. The new thing is that it is now, in some cases, possible to get the oil out of the shale directly, rather than looking for the rare geologic coincidences that have first "cooked" the oil out of the shales (without heating it to destruction) and then caught the migrating oil in some kind of trap that has prevented it from leaking to the surface and evaporating.
In a way this is rather like discovering that you can actually get iron from ore instead of searching for meteorites, so no wonder Greenpeace et al. are getting desperate.

Aug 20, 2013 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered Commentertty


Your Info summarising Cuadrilla's test procedure is very enlightening, and demonstrates that their main objective is oil and/or gas in the Kimmeridge Shale Formation . Doing some searches for more info, the best glossary of links to available pertinent geological references is this

and, of pictorial interest, by the same author, this

Buried within the first link, about a quarter the way through it, is a section on Cuadrilla's Balcombe activity. In there this link

takes you to the Environment Agency page with a download facility for a pdf called 'Non Technical Summary' within which is a summary geological column illustrating the main target of interest is shown as figure 1. This clearly shows that the horizontal section is intended to be steered into a mid Kimmeridgian 'micrite' (finegrained limestone/marl) bed within the Kimmeridge Shale.

Also from the first link, an extract from another planning application is quoted, although unfortunately the hotlink to the full thing seems to be broken. This extract rather confusingly puts a more 'fly by seat of pants' complexion on their specific testing plans, but adds interesting structural detail on the prospect itself.

The extract reads
'"Geological Summary Lower Stumble Prospect: The Lower Stumble prospect forms on an east-west trending anticline of Alpine origin in the centre of the Weald Basin. The location is approximately 8km south-east of Crawley and 5km north-west of Hayward's Heath near the village of Balcombe. It lies on the downthrow side of the Borde Hill Fault and dip closure is present to the east and west at Upper Jurassic level. Stratigraphic thinning of the Upper Jurassic towards the east reduces the amount of structural closure at deeper stratigraphic levels and little or no structural closure is observed below the Middle Jurassic (geological and seismic cross sections Fig. BO1 and BO2). The well is located at the same place as the Balcombe 1 well drilled by Conoco in 1986. The geological column encountered in the Balcombe-1 well is shown in Fig. BO3. The original objectives were the Portland sandstone, Ashdown Sands and Kimmeridge Sandstones. A number of oil and gas shows were recorded in the well but none proved to be economic. The target formation for the Lower Stumble well is the Middle to Upper Jurassic including the Corallian Sandstone, Kimmeridge and Portland Sandstone. The Cuadrilla exploration plan is to drill vertically through the Middle to Upper Jurassic sequence, recover core and drill to a total depth of 4700 feet (below surface) in the Great Oolite. If the result of the core analysis and geological investigations appear promising we may choose to drill a horizontal well section to further test the presence of hydrocarbons."

From this I assume they will drill down verticallyto TD to see whether there is anything elase of interest, then plug back and kick off the horizontal leg and try for a natural flow with just an acid wash cleanup.,

Aug 20, 2013 at 8:44 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Pharos: the link I gave was from Southampton Uni too.

Regarding the completion, given its a micrite limestone, I think it may be a bit more than an acid wash cleanup, perhaps more of an acid stimulation. Either way, its no big deal (although it might liberate some CO2 - shock horror!).

I also noted on the link I gave above that there are thin oil shales either side of the micrite in outcrop. Short migration path! However, that micrite in outcrop looks pretty thin for an accurately sited horizontal well section, at least to my eys.

Aug 20, 2013 at 9:31 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Pharos, I take back what I said above. On the link I gave to Ian West's page on geology (via southampton uni) the Balcombe-1 well log drilled by Conoco shows the micrite2 target in the Kimmeridge formation to be about 30 m in thickness, so perfectly reasonable target for horizontal drilling.

Aug 20, 2013 at 9:40 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

OK... here's one that flew under the radar.... I think? Fracktivism is simply one facet in knackering any oil/gas/coal extractive energy effort in the UK.... which is the thrust really of Damiens article - they must all be resisted!

We suspect the usual suspect NGOs of being determined to reducing us to huddling in dark, cold, smoke filled yurts ....

Well - here's ample evidence of it from FoE in a very obscure Telegraph article

Apologies if it's already been covered here - I missed it. Ms. Lucas is on the EA's case with her equally stupid MEP mate Keef - and I can tell you the EA will try not to miss an opportunity to do "their thing" - as in try to use mining and quarrying regulations to "regulate fracking" like that at Balcombe - according to a certain David Forster, strategy manager at the EA..... like they do in Europe apparently - but no references provided.

Aug 20, 2013 at 10:26 PM | Registered Commentertomo


Sorry. I was working from your post at 3.55 and came upon the Southhampton link independently- missed your post at 4.10.

Aug 20, 2013 at 10:55 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

The pdf of the 'Non Technical Summary' actually goes into some detail on the proposed test of the horizontal section (if warranted, presumably).

'On completion of the drilling phase, the drilling unit will be moved off location and a well testing programme shall be conducted. The overall duration of the testing phase is approximately 3 to 7 days of oil flow, followed by up to 21 days of shut-in of the well.
The well testing plan is as follows:
Following rig demobilisation, coiled tubing and the well test equipment is mobilised and rigged up. The horizontal production borehole is washed with maximum 10% diluted hydrochloric acid, from the toe to the heel using a rotating jet nozzle. The coiled tubing is a long spool of continuous steel tubing, generally 1.75” to 2” in diameter, which is spooled onto a large reel which is controlled with hydraulic motors. The coiled tubing provides a clean, accurate conduit for circulating the wash to the wellbore. The purpose of using diluted hydrochloric acid is to circulate the wash around the horizontal well to clear the wellbore of any debris.
The volume of maximum dilution 10% hydrochloric acid (HCl), a non-hazardous pollutant to groundwater, is expected to be in the order of 20m3. The acid reacts primarily with carbonate solids to produce carbon dioxide and water. The wellbore is planned to be drilled through the Micrite which is an Argillaceous carbonate. The Argillaceous material is unaffected by HCl. The purpose of a “matrix acid wash” is to clean the immediate wellbore area. Typical radial penetration from the wellbore is less than 6 inches, and can only be to natural permeability (in this case in the form of natural fractures). No fractures are induced hydraulically during this treatment.
After washing, the well is lifted with nitrogen from the toe to ensure it is entirely flushed out. This brings to surface the reaction products from the wash as well as any remnant of completion brine, plus any formation brine, oil or gas that is able to flow at this point. A minimum clean-out of 24 hours is planned. The clean out process will principally remove circulated liquids from the well, and establish underbalanced wellbore pressure conditions to initiate well flow for production testing. Coiled tubing is pulled out of the hole once liquids have been flushed from the well and brought to the surface. All fluids returned from the wellbore pass through the well test system for separation and temporary secure storage for removal from site via a licensed waste contractor or as a product. After the coil tubing has been removed from the wellbore, production testing proceeds by swabbing on the production tubing to draw up oil. A subsequent run with coiled tubing may be necessary if production rates with swabbing, which pulls fluid from the wellbore to the surface.' etc

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:05 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

Will the protesters be making their way down to the Eden Project?

They have planning permission for drilling two 4.5km deep wells and then fracking.

From the Planning Support Document

2.2 Phase 1 will principally involve drilling two wells to a depth of approximately 4.5km. Both wells will be cased to a depth of approximately 4km, leaving approximately 500 to 800m of openhole at the base. Each well will commence vertical and at a suitable depth will start to be deviated until achieving a maximum inclination of 30° at a depth of 4km. Drilling these deep wells will be carried out by a large land-based drilling rig (circa 1500 – 2000 HP model) using conventional oilfield-based technology. The practicalities of drilling these deep wells means that the drilling and associated operations have to be undertaken 24 hours per day, 7 days per week (see figure 1).

2.3 The first activity will be to prepare the site at Eden for the drilling operations (see section 3 for further details). The first well will be drilled and completed to total depth. The creation of the underground reservoir will involve injecting a large volume of water (up to 30,000 m3) at relatively high flow rates (up to 100 l/s) into the openhole section of the well to open natural fractures within the granite...

Since the fracking is for a geothermal project I doubt we will see anybody there.

Aug 21, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Registered CommenterTerryS

TerryS: No-one complained last time that they were fracking geothermal wells in Cornwall.

But then, no-one complained at any of the other 200 or so wells that were hydraulically fractured in the UK onshore since 1980.

Aug 21, 2013 at 10:20 AM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Daniel Hannon has a good blog post in the Telegraph on the ideology behind the protests.

Aug 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

All ground water will contain some methane in solution from biogenic sources, ie bacteria living in the rocks due to anaerobic respiration. Water treatment will remove this solute gas for mains distribution. Unlike America where boreholes are common for rural communities and water is not treated as here. Their drinking water can contain dissolved methane. Not enough to burn though.

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Re: John

> Their drinking water can contain dissolved methane. Not enough to burn though.

Try this 1951 report about public groundwater supplies in Illinois:

Methane gas is present in a number of groundwater supplies and on several occasions has caused severe explosions...

or this 1983 paper
Methane-rich gas commonly occurs in ground water in the Denver basin, southern Weld County, Colorado. The gas generally is in solution in the ground water of the aquifer. However, exsolution resulting from reduction to hydrostatic pressure during water production may create free gas, which can accumulate in wells and buildings and pose an explosion and fire hazard.

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM | Registered CommenterTerryS

TerryS (Aug 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM)

Methane-rich gas commonly occurs in ground water

Remember Abbeystead? (When? 1980s?) An explosion in a service tunnel for a water company; a possible combination that no-one considered (not true, as it was well-known, even then, but the visitors/victims were unaware). Oddly enough, that is in Lancashire, too. Perhaps fracking the deeper shales might reduce the risk of similar build-ups. Who could complain about that? (Oh. Alright, rationality is outside the parlance of many in this argument.)

Aug 22, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

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