A discussion caught my eye over at Charlie Stross’ blog, that I’ll just copy here. The reason being that it was derailing the discussion at hand into a flame war. I invite the participants to have their flame war over here, if they want to:
While I don’t find the language very agreeable, I do like the technical content (I would like to have some links to sources as well). So, if the participants of the discussion would be so kind to keep the fighting words to a minimum – feel free to discuss the issue here.
daniel.duffy20 wrote orginially:
Sorry to all of you tree hugging hippie solar energy lovers out there, but 2013 is the year where natural gas from fracking achieves total dominance in the energy market. Its cheaper than coal (with less than half the GHG per kWh generated) cheaper than nuclear, and waaaay cheaper than solar, wind, tides, PVCs or biomass.
Permiting is not much of an issue (providing we get some stricter standards for siting brine disposal wells – or require brine recycling – and improve the quality of qell casing construction). We already have an extensive infrastructure in place to transport natural gas accross the coungtry. Its so cheap American chemical companies who rely on methane as a chemical stock) are exporting chemicals competitively worldwide. It has triggered an industrial renaissance in the Rust Belt where steel mills even in blighted Youngstown, Ohio are workin three shifts to meet demand for piping.
And you can forget about electrical cars. CNG vehicles are far more efficient, cost effective and environmentally safe.
All other forms of energy will be econmically marginalized. We already see the decline of coal in the USA with coal mines shutting down and coal burning elecgtrical plants closing.
After which three issues were raised:
“Its cheaper than coal”, well until the “fracking causes earthquakes” science is a bit better proven anyway.
Prompting the answer:
There actually was a rumbler outside of Youngstown, Ohio which was due to improper siting of deep injection disposal wells used to get rid of the used brine from the fracking operation (not from the fracking operation itself). The deep inject well was sited in a fracture zone.
Proper siting of deep injection wells (an accepted and proven technique for liquid hazwaste disposal) or recycling the brine solves this problem.
Another point was raised:
Rubbish. It isn’t as if it’ll last for decades, and anyway you’re completely ignoring global warming and oceanic acidification, which mean that all fossil fuel use needs to be minimised.
And answered the following way:
The USGS estimated last year that the eight-state Marcellus region contains some 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas, far more than its 2002 assessment of just 2 trillion. And that’s just one shale play. For example, we have just begun to tap deeper formations such as the Utica.
USGS and EIA estimates place proven and likely reserves at 100 to 200 years at current usage rates, and we’ve only scratched the surface. These are unbiased government agencies, green hippies with ideological axes to grind or greedy megacorporations.
But if you and people like Bill Powers are right, what’s the worry? We’ll be out of natural gas soon enough and then we’ll transiton to other energy sources.
Regarding “global warming and oceanic acidification” he added:
Then you should hate coal, not natural gas. As a chemical reaction, burning methane creates half as much GHG per BTU generated. Furthermore, natural gas power plants are 20% to 30% more efficient than coal in terms of kWh generated per BTU.
I for one hope that fracking puts the coal industry out of business.
Coal kills people, like at the Massey mine disaster over a year ago. Coal mining chops off mountain tops and fills valleys in Appalachia with acidic mine waste.
Its also better environemntally thatn solar based renewables. To produce the same amount of electricity generated by a single natural gas power plant whiose footprint (including the employee parking lot) is only a dozen acres you would need wind farms and solar arrays covering dozens of square miles. Each component will need access roads, regraded topogrpahy, drainage structures, utility hook ups and easements, etc.
That is a lot of destroyed habitat.
Environmentlists should love fracking.
And then there are the economic impacts of solar energy. The cost of a complete conversion to renewables will make us all poorer in real terms. The operating and capital costs (especially land requirements) of equivalent solar energy sources are such that these additinal costs would throw the world economy into a major depression.
But go ahead and be a Believer if you want and ignore the numbers.
I prefer being an Engineer.
P.S. If you actually want the hard numbers instead of hippie fantasies, for an in-depth, technical and financial analysis of renewable energy potential I highly recommend “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air” by David MacKay.
And do these alleged costs [of fracking in comparison with other energy sources] include groundwater contamination?
I think not, since the industry spends lots of money and effort to keep that secret.
Which was answered:
This issue is solved with proper design and construction of the well casings. The “methane in groundwater that flames out of the kitchen faucet” problems occur at sites that have had poorly designed or installed well casings for those segments of the well hole passing through the shallow groundwater bearing strata.
Stricter standards and tougher regulation of well casing construction will (and has) solved this problem.
Below that, the well hole and horizontal drilling occurs literally miles below intervening impermeable bedrock strata that separate the fracking zone from surficial groundwater deposits.
Then after the facking is performed, the liquids are EXTRACTED from the fracking zone to allow for unimpeded migration of the natural gas to the well head. This extracted waste water becomes brine which has to be properly managed, recycled or disposed of (the other major fracking issue).
The chemicals mixed in the water and sand (in amounts measured in PPM) do include chemicals on the 40 CFR list. But these are mostly surfactants, rust inhibitors and chemicals far less dangerous to the environment than those found in a typical oil well or machine shop. There are some proprietary chemicals to be sure, and I would also like to see them made public.
But given the thickness and low permeablity (absent major pre-exisiting natural fracture zones) – and if the well casing is properly installed – there is no physcial danger to groundwater.
To believe otherwise is to be ignorant of both hydrogeology and basic physics.