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Discussion > The price of fracking

Ravishing Rattie. I suspect (and earnestly hope) our disputes are mostly in jest. I can see no reason why observations and monitoring should not be done - but at whose expense? I would argue that costs should be born by those that might benefit or those who are most concerned, i.e. not the drilling company. They might have to bear any remediation costs.

With regard to inconvenience, I presume this occurs and that, during the operation of the drilling rig, it is significant based upon 4 arguments -
1. My own experience of well sitting (and conversations with colleagues who have done the same)
2. The inconvenience over several months of having infrastructure constructed immediately outside my previous home (in this case a hospital and an upgrade to my road as a result of it being now a hospital access road - formerly it was a sleepy country D road. This involved months of noise and hundreds of lorry movements, not to mention a permanent change to our locality that non of us wanted. I imagine my experience - especially in terms of road traffic and change in status of my environs to be comparable to being close to a drilling site.
3.Estimates of the loads brought and from the drilling sites, and
4.Local opposition and reasons given to oppose drilling by local authorities based upon expected disturbance.

Now what is your evixence that significant disturbance does not occur?

Nov 13, 2016 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

EM, November 11th @ 5.27pm.

I don't know how you did your calculations for the power expected from a Marcellus shale well but I think you have underestimated the output by a factor of 100!

Taking your figure of a typical Marcellus Shale well production of 1.8e9 cubic feet per annum (ca. 6e7 cubic metres per annum) and a relatively low calorific value of 10MJ per cubic metre one finds the output equivalent to 2e7J per s, or 20MW. Over the year this is equivalent to 1.8e5 MW hrs a^-1.

A single well looks to be on the order of 2x the output of your wind farm of 25 2MW turbines. Of course the average life of a well is probably on the order of 8 years and the wind farm may be 25 years. Allowing for derating the turbine output over that time it looks like a single well is equivalent to the wind farm!

Can someone check these figures becaue they are so different from EM's.

Nov 13, 2016 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis


Thanks for the professional viewpoint.

Golf Charlie

Before you go too far into micro-analysis of amounts of materials, can we consider the next stage in the like-for-like comparison of gas and wind.. There are large items of infrastructure still to add on the gas side of the balance.

A wind farm is self contained. Energy harvesting and electricity generation take place on the same site.

A fracking pad is an energy harvester, collecting the gas fuel. For electricity generation you also need gas-fired power stations.

Radical rodent

I doubt that any fracking pad would still be actively producing after five years, let alone fifteen years. You do raise a useful point. Who bears the cost and responsibility of monitoring capped wells after they are no longer productive. Who repairs leaks?

After 15 years the original operators will have moved, merged or gone bankrupt. American experience with mining operations is that, despite regulations and agreements, once the mine closes the operators walk away and the taxpayer ends up paying to clean up the consequences.

Nov 13, 2016 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

I have researched fracking diligently and my understanding of the process is that a well is fracked in hours, and it isn't a continual process. It is also not a new process, although horizontal fracking is, there are a million or more fracked wells worldwide, the first well having been fracked in 1949.

During fracking there have been instances of so called earthquakes which are in the region of 3 on the Richter scale, equivalent, I'm told to a heavy vehicle passing 25 feet away from your home at 30 mph,

It is diifficult for me to understand therefore why EM has asked us to assume fracking has caused a massive increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma, it is not remotely feasible if my understanding of the fracking process is correct.

Perhaps EM could enlighten us as to how he sees fracking causing increased earthquakes in Oklahoma.

The only downside to regulated fracking that I can find is what ACK has been saying, the disruption caused by heavy vehicles coming to and fro the well sites.

Nov 13, 2016 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Things have moved on a bit, but I wasn't suggesting building on top of peat but digging it out going into bed rock and then reburying in peat. As the peat is more acidic than rain water and probably more acidic than acid rain it would be a hostile environment. The lack of oxygen in peat bogs might also lead to interesting chemical reactions over decades.

Nov 13, 2016 at 11:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

SandyS. Why rebury the pad with peat? I wouldn't, as I've already written, I would replace with hardcore.

Nov 13, 2016 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Geronimo. Fracking conventional wells (I have no first hand experience of modern fracking) takes hours, but then the well must be tested and decisions made about completing the well or conducting more well stimulation. Further fracking would require additional water supply.
The disturbance is not just lorry movements, but noise, possible water and air contamination (invariably dust) and perhaps most significant a permanent change to the local infrastructure and environment. I do not believe these should be used as reasons not to drill, but reasons for compensation. I also believe that those who argue that environmental costs of fracking are non-existent, or minimal are not being realistic. But all change affects some people negatively. What is needed is for understanding of those who will be so negatively affected.

Nov 13, 2016 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Paul Dennis
The figures quoted by Entropic man

An average Marcellus well produces 1.800,000Mcf(thousand cubic feet) per year. At 0.01Mcf/kW that could generate 180MWh per year.

Now assuming the number 1.800,000Mcf is actually 1,800,000 Mcf (needs confirmation by the author) Then
1,800,000Mcf = 180,000,000 kWh at 0.01Mcf/kW
Which is 180,000MWh which is 1000x more than Entropic man's number. Unless I've made an error.

Nov 13, 2016 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

EM, sorry, but that is more floundering around. Wind turbines don't work, and it would be insanity for taxpayers to be forced to pay for more.

ACK 8:05 & 11:37 thank you, that is the more reasoned approach. Your post at 8:05 had 3 numbered points

1) Depth. Probably much deeper in the UK, even below sealevel. Groundwater contamination seems a somewhat over exaggerated risk. Possible yes.

2) Trial and Error. This is proven technology. Mistakes have been made, and lessons learned.

3) Regulatory Control. Standards in the UK will be better, and better supervised than in the USA.

Roads and their construction is not my "thing", but I have had to deal with the consequences of roads being used for traffic volumes, sizes weight vibration etc that they were never intended for. Hopefully fracking companies will be more diligent than wind subsidy farmers.

We now have all the evidence we need, to know wind turbines are a waste of taxpayers money. It would be insanity to build more. We know most of the unknowns about fracking, apart from the specifics about UK conditions. We need to get on with it.

The Green Blob should spend their money on removing broken wind turbines, before the companies all go bust.

Nov 13, 2016 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

In order to stop ingress of acidic water from the peat you'd need some kind of barrier as Golf Charlie says. Which brings me back to my original query how well does the concrete stand up to those conditions if you don't take precautions in type of concrete and reinforcing and protective measures used.

An aside, is hardcore environmentally acceptable in a peat bog?

Nov 13, 2016 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Paul Dennis
Could be a confusion between the continental (French at least) thousand delimiter and UK. The French use comma as decimal and stop as thousands, so for a UK reader the number could be 1,800.000 Mcf.

Now I'm in need of clarification by Entropic man.

Nov 13, 2016 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS


But all change affects some people negatively. What is needed is for understanding of those who will be so negatively affected.

You can bet that anyone adversely affected by fracking get a more sympathetic hearing than those affected by wind turbines.

Nov 13, 2016 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Minty: at whose expense? – good question. That it should be scientifically constructed would be imperative. Whatever the result, there will be claims of bias, which is why such rigour is needed, and both sides of the argument will need to be involved.

As for your other 4 points:
1. Probably not unique in any industrial process; however, most existing well-sites in this country are some distance from residential properties;
2. Again, not unique with any significant work; what is it like in a London street where people are having their basements extended? How many housing estates have been established in areas where the locals did not want them (such as not so far from me)? Quite why burying prime farming land under bricks and mortar, and destruction of the associated habitats does not raise the ire of the Greens in the way that fracking does remains a mystery to me.
3. Also, not a unique problem; whether drilling for gas or building an estate, there will be significant amounts of lorry movements, bringing the materials required;
4. Oh dear. This is getting embarrassing – another not-exactly-unique situation. There is usually some local (and, occasionally, national) opposition to almost every type of development, and that trend is getting more and more common. Would a project such as the M62, and all the benefits it has brought us, ever be allowed to progress, nowadays? Given the opposition to the third runway at Heathrow, might I suggest: probably not?

Please read my Nov 12, 2016 at 6:02 PM comment again, and point out where I stated that significant disturbance does not occur. I merely raised the question of whether it had occurred; to the best of my knowledge, no complaints about disturbance were raised when the Fylde sites were developed, nor when the Kirby Misperton sites were first drilled and fracked (of which, it would appear, there are two, each about 60x70 yards; I challenge you to drive there and find either), nor those on the various RSPB reserves. However, with the enhanced sensitivity that has now been engendered with this operation, I would moot that there will be complaints about disturbance being caused even if it were just a man in a van checking the site on a regular basis.

Nov 13, 2016 at 1:15 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

EM: unlike you, I was not referring to what has taken place in another country, nor was I talking hypothetically. I was referring to an actual site, near Kirby Misperton, in North Yorkshire, England; for those interested, it is where the Flamingo Land amusement park is, too; a source, one would have thought, of great noise and traffic. The site was drilled and fracked around about ten years ago, though it might have been as long as fifteen years; I do not know who the original operators where, or what has happened to them, but the present operators want to re-frack the site, and have received permission from the local authorities to do so. What is happening at present, I have no idea.

As for your dream of windfarms being such a compact source of electricity, please remember that they have to have a back-up source of electricity, for those times when the wind either does not blow, or blows too hard. These generators will ideally be gas-powered, for which we will need a gas extraction site, as well as a gas-fired power station. Aside from that your vision has huge wind-turbines despoiling the view, in what way is it different? From what I have gleaned, the back-up would ideally be linked to ramp up and down to counter the highly variable and utterly unpredictable output from the wind-turbines, too, but I suspect that sort of process has not been developed on the scale in which we are talking.

Nov 13, 2016 at 1:36 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

SandyS, specifying the chemistry of concrete to cope with acidic peaty groundwater conditions is fairly straightforward, and not expensive.

Limestones, chalk etc are dissolved by acid run off. That is how potholes, swallowholes, sinkholes etc are formed naturally. (Note that some sink holes that suddenly open up may be due to other causes -leaking mains water, collapsing drains, badly infilled bomb craters from WW2 etc.

Wookey Hole is a cave system caused by rock being dissolved. Cheddar Gorge is the same, but the roof collapsed. The Caves of Drach (Drax) on Mallorca are impressive. In the UK we refer to "Potholing". The US and Canada refer to "Spelunking" from Speleology.

Nov 13, 2016 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

RR. It's not just a question of whether or not an environmental disturbance occurs or not, but is one of the magnitude of that disturbance, which you conveniently ignore. If effects are as minor as you seem to be suggesting why do you believe mineral planning committees and then county councils are prepared to oppose drilling? The fact that you can suggest other developments that cause similar negative effects upon residents is no excuse for denying them or their effects.
I am not arguing that these effects should prevent drilling, far from it. However, I also recognize that locally these problems might be quite serious. Those who, in their enthusiasm for fracking deny these effects do the industry no favours.You seem to be implying environmental problems do not afflict fracked wells - well they do. The fracking industry recognizes it and bends over backwards to minimize them.

In your previous post you argued that there was no evidence that residents near previously drilled and fracked wells suffered any adverse environmental consequences. This implied to me that you believed there were none. If I was wrong in my implication, then I apologize. However, I do recall a report about people in Lancashire being advised by resident-groups founded elsewhere to oppose drilling who had been unsuccessful and "suffered" from those drilling experiences.

Nov 13, 2016 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Radical Rodent, until reliable means of generating electricity are restored to the UK, we need to convert wind turbines to diesel engined electricity generators.

The necessary roads and hardstandings must have been installed to build the tower, and with exhausts vented through the nacelles, and adequate sound proofing, nobody will notice anything different.

The electrical connections to the National Grid may not be capable of handling constant high levels of power though, as that was never assumed by anyone other than dreamers.

Nov 13, 2016 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

ACK 1:59, nothing is without risk. Unfortunately the RSPB have never actively done anything about birds damaged by windturbines, and Green Blob Environmentalists have done nothing either. Actually the RSPB has profited out of bird mashers.

If they had been more honest in their presentations to Planning Committees, they would not now appear like such a bunch of lying hypocrites squawking about Mohican Crested Newts.

If there is to be noise, road chaos etc, I would prefer that it was quantifiably for the "Greater Good". Wind turbines only benefit subsidy farmers.

Nov 13, 2016 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

ACK, what I forgot to add, and why I appreciate your knowledge and experience, is that Green Blob Anti-Frackers have been awarded a free pass to recite and chant false information, lies and propaganda, and whip-up local hysteria, fears and panic. That is all that politicians, at National, County, Local/District, and Village/Parish level have been allowed to hear.

The BBC have also served as powerful accomplices to campaigns of hate and intimidation.

Just like most of Climate Science, there is a shortage of actual evidence.

Nov 13, 2016 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie


"false information, lies and propaganda, and whip-up local hysteria, fears and panic. That is all that politicians, at National, County, Local/District, and Village/Parish level have been allowed to hear".

Not really, they are served by a pretty independent and dedicated advisory staff. I had the pleasure of meeting Norfolk's chief minerals planning officer (I roped him in to talk to my students about minerals planning law, and some years he visited quarries with us on field trips). There was someone who knew his job, the law, and would have been most unlikely to have been influenced by greens. His job was to promote mineral extraction but within strict environmental and other guidelines. When I knew him it was a particularly busy period when companies owning permits issued just after the war (= mere single sheets of paper) had to be renewed, updated, and have attached to them all sorts of environmental restrictions. Still he found time every two years to spend a day with my students.
Unfortunately informed voices such as his were not always heeded by politicians on committees that made the decisions.

Nov 13, 2016 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK


typical production would be 1.8 x 10^9 cubic feet per annum. The most productive wells are better than this, others possibly less so.

Nov 13, 2016 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis


The production figure is correct, but I made a decimal point error in the energy calculation. Your figure is correct.

Nov 13, 2016 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

ACK, I am not a Planner, but have worked with Planning Officers on the "technical" issues concerning certain Applications. I am well aware that Planners should have a broad experience of local issues and technical ones, and the good ones certainly do.

I have also experienced personally, and witnessed Planners and other Council Officers being threatened with suggestions about seeking new employment, from elected Councillors, sufficiently motivated to seek to change a Professional's expert evidence. These threats came from those flying Red, Blue and Orange flags, there were no Green ones at the time. I am not trying to make or score a Political point.

When elected Councillors choose to ignore the advice of professional advisers, they should be held to account more publicly, but I appreciate they are subject to baying mobs in the run up to local elections. This is what the Green Blob have been very adept at generating.

I am also aware of how decisions on planning matters can be called in by National Government and Political decisions can be taken. The departure of Mr and Mrs Cameron from No 10 is starting to be felt.

Nov 13, 2016 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

golfCharlie. I don't know how it is today, but when I had my connection with Norfolk' planning officer those suitably qualified to act in that capacity were few and far between. They needed a good grounding in the relevant parts of the law -an area seemingly in constant change, in basic geology, hydrology, mineral resource estimation, and much more, an ability to convene meetings and to arbitrate between opposing factions. They constantly were headhunted by the minerals and extraction industry with salary offers far in excess of what they earned from local government. Furthermore the posts were not being filled when vacancies arose. In many years of teaching a multidisciplinary module on mineral deposits, to perhaps just over 100 students (it was never a popular module) not one pursued a career in this area, although both the planning officer and I tried to interest them in it - it being suitable for someone with an environmental science degree.
Thus planning officers were rather independent minded people who could resist political pressure, because they could just walk if pressured. Replacement by competent people would be difficult, councils knew their worth.
I have no idea what the situation is now.

Nov 13, 2016 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterACK

Minty, you are obviously reading far more into what I wrote than I actually intended, as I have made no reference to magnitude of disturbance, either. What I have queried is your assertion: “… any drilling of a well is very disruptive in a densely populated country like Britain…”; all sites so far drilled and fracked in the UK are some distance away from residential properties, so the actual process has caused minimal disturbance. I have also asked what complaints of disturbance were made during the processes (note: were made, not ARE being made, in retrospect, now that the people involved have been “educated” about it); I would moot that the worst case involved someone saying something along the lines of, “Ooh, I wonder what’s going on down there? There’s been an awful lot of traffic, lately...” with, perhaps, the codicil, “Whatever it is, I hope it’s won’t ruin the view…” (Perhaps made more ironic as the Pterodactyl ride rises behind them.) For many sites, people will have to have lo-o-ong memories, as they were fracked decades ago; those in the Fylde are more recent, but I suspect that few people actually were aware of what was happening. To sum it up – there has not yet been any evidence that fracking causes disturbances significantly over and above other developments (though have little doubt that this will change, now that so many are aware that it should). As Gwen says, “Just like most of Climate Science, there is a shortage of actual evidence.” Because of this, it would not surprise me if the companies involved schedule any significant deliveries in or out through very tight time-windows, either late morning or early afternoon, to ameliorate any conflicts with any residents.

I am NOT ignoring the problems that could be associated with fracking, I am suggesting that many of them are rather over-blown, as, unfortunately, the clamour of the Greens amplifies them. Whatever the activity in our industrialised society, there will be disturbance, however, most (or at least many?) of us recognise this, and tolerate the associated annoyance, as we accept that it will not last forever – except if you live in the shadow of a wind subsidy farm. I would argue that the long-term effects of wind subsidy farms far, far outweigh any temporary inconvenience that comes with fracking.

Nov 13, 2016 at 8:15 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent