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Methane and Fracking, part 1

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posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 08:37 AM
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This next chapter of my book, Fever Rising, focuses on fracking. It's a long chapter, 27 pages, so I've broken it into two parts. I thought about condensing it or summarizing it, but there's just too much information on the topic and I didn't want to leave anything out. Here are the first six chapters of the book in four threads

The Mystery of the Clintonville Booms
The Jumping Jack Flash Hypothesis
The Rise of Deadly Methane Gas
The Truth about Atmospheric Methane and it's Role in Global Warming

Chapter 7: Methane and Fracking

Methane makes up anywhere from 70 to 90% of natural gas that is extracted from the ground by hydraulic fracturing. This gas is used to heat our homes (among other purposes) and is considered to be one of the cleanest forms of energy. When you burn it off, it provides a lot of energy and has very little emissions, so they claim. I beg to differ. I’m not so sure that hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as ‘fracking’ is as clean as they claim. Let me present my argument.

Fracking has become an acceptable part of our society. It provides many high-paying jobs and has succeeded in lowering our heating bills for the past few winters as the United States has become the number one supplier of natural gas in the world. What frightens me, though, is just how much money and power is behind the process now that it may be unstoppable, regardless whether or not it becomes clear the dangers of fracking from high rates of escaping methane, to contamination of drinking water, to the triggering of earthquakes. If that’s not enough, President Obama has embraced fracking as part of his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.

Innumerable amounts of methane are releasing into the atmosphere from varied sources but I find it interesting that methane sort of leveled off from the late 90's until 2007 where it began increasing again at a rapid pace about the same time that fracking took off. Methane levels that sustained for 400,000 years rose 150% over the last couple of hundred years, then, sort of leveled off from 1997 to 2007. There are many causes to the methane release over the years, which, include livestock, rice cultivation, landfill out-gassing, oil and gas extraction and coal mining. As I’ve previously mentioned, we also have natural methane leaks in the oceans, and permafrost that melts and releases the trapped gases, but of great concern is the fracking.

As previously mentioned, methane levels began rising again right around the same time that fracking took off. Sure, we have plunging winter heating bills, but, at what cost? It was said that natural gas would be better for the atmosphere as there would be less emissions than from coal, but, according to an article at Businessgreen.com, “9% of gas collected at Utah field escaping into atmosphere,” published January 4, 2013, U.S. scientists warned large amounts of methane could be leaking from new onshore gas drilling projects, challenging claims the fuel can offer a lower emissions alternative to coal.

“Around nine per cent of the potent greenhouse gas methane produced by a gas field in Utah was shown to be escaping into the atmosphere,” the article stated.

When President G.W. Bush signed the Clean Water Act into law in 2005, he allowed for fracking because experts said that it would be a cleaner alternative to coal energy. It was said though, for fracking to be cleaner than coal, the cumulative methane leakage rate from shale gas projects would have to remain below 3.2 percent. This article stated that in Utah the leakage rate was around 9%. This followed a study published by the same scientists in February of 2012 that said Denver shale fields were losing 4%, which also exceeded the 3.2 percent safe zone.

With statistics like this, natural gas could actually be a plan for climate disaster rather than a clean energy source.

The following is a reprinted article by Stephen Leahy in regards to the real dangers posed by fracking. This is a real eye-opener when you consider just how many fracking wells are out there and how much methane may be lost to the atmosphere. You begin to grasp how soon we may reach the tipping points of climate disaster. This article was written in January of 2012 predicting how fracking was the wrong alternative to coal. Since that time, two papers have come out about the high rate of methane emissions from fracking that support the author’s claims. He states that natural gas extraction is worse than burning coal.

Shale Gas Worse Than Coal Study Finds
By Stephen Leahy
StephenLeahy.net
Uxbridge, Canada, Jan 24, 2012 (IPS)
Hundreds of thousands of shale gas wells are being “fracked” in the United States and Canada, allowing large amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere, new studies have shown.

Shale gas production results in 40 to 60 percent more global warming emissions than conventional gas, said Robert Howarth of Cornell University in New York State.

“Shale gas also has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than oil or coal over the short term,” said Howarth, co-author of a study called “Venting and Leaking of Methane from Shale Gas Development” to be published in the journal Climatic Change.

This latest study follows up on Howarth and colleagues’ controversial April 2011 paper that provided the first comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing. That study found that when gas wells are “fracked”, they leak large amounts of methane and pose a significant threat to the global climate.

“We stand by the conclusion of our 2011 research,” said Howarth.

That research undercuts the logic of energy sector claims that shale gas is a “bridge” to a low-carbon energy future. Those claims are based on the fact that natural gas (which is mainly methane) has half the carbon content of coal, and when burned for electricity it is more energy efficient than coal.

However, those climate gains are more than negated by methane leaks both at the well during the fracking process (called flow-back), and through the gas delivery and distribution system. Howarth and colleagues estimate that between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of all shale gas produced leaks – called “fugitive emissions” – into the atmosphere, making it worse than burning coal or oil.

Methane has 105 times the warming potential of CO2 over a 20-year time frame, after which it rapidly loses its warming potential. If large amounts of methane are released through fracking – as seems likely with hundreds of thousands of new wells forecast in the next two decades – Howarth says global temperatures could rocket upward from 0.8C currently to 1.8C in 15 to 35 years, running the risk of triggering a tipping point that could lead to catastrophic climate change.

“Our primary concern is that methane emissions over the coming two decades will drive the entire climate system past a major tipping point,” he told IPS.


Continued...




posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 08:43 AM
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A study by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) last September also concluded that methane leaks meant that natural gas provided little advantage over using coal. Even if leaks are one to two percent, far less than the Howarth estimates, it would only be slightly better than continuing to burn coal, the “Coal to gas: the influence of methane leakage” study concluded.

Fracking involves drilling vertically 500 to 3,000 metres into gas- bearing shale rock and then horizontally for 1,000 metres or more along the shale formation. Then chemicals and large amounts of water are pumped underground at high enough pressure to fracture the shale, releasing the gas into the pipeline.

The first uses of hydraulic fracturing were in Texas in the early 1990s, but were very limited. However, new technologies developed in the last eight years have made it possible to get at deep, widely dispersed deposits of gas.

The George W. Bush administration’s 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted fracking from regulations under the U.S. Clean Water Act, clearing the way for the shale gas gold rush. In recent years, shale gas production has grown 48 percent per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

There are now an estimated 400,000 wells in the continental U.S. and tens of thousands more planned in the next year or two. Public concern has risen over water and air pollution, water shortages, disruption of rural neighbourhoods, and even earthquakes.

Ohio halted fracking this month in one part of the state after a series of small earthquakes were linked to injecting fracking wastes underground. Fracking a well requires injecting 10 to 15 million litres of water and 200,000 litres of chemicals and the resulting wastewater is often too contaminated to be reused and is pumped deeper underground or left in wastewater ponds.

Although the gas industry long denied that fracking contaminates drinking water wells and aquifers, hundreds of claims have been made over the years. However, very little independent research has been done.




Last year, researchers at Duke University looked at 68 fracking sites and found groundwater with methane concentrations 17 times higher than in wells located where fracking was not taking place. Some of the levels were higher than “immediate action” hazard levels.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally began to conduct its first in-depth study of the risks to drinking water. Preliminary results released late last year revealed drinking water contaminated by benzene, a known carcinogen and one of the chemicals used in fracking.

From a climate perspective, shale gas is certainly worse than conventional gas, said Zeke Hausfather, an energy expert at Efficiency 2.0 in New York, which works with power utilities. However, Hausfather disputes Howarth’s findings that shale is worse than coal since the latter emits more CO2 and while methane has a life of only 10 years in the atmosphere, CO2 stays for thousands of years.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about methane leakage and much of it is based on estimates,” Hausfather told IPS.

Howarth’s range is on the high side, with his upper estimate of 7.9 percent, 400 percent higher than estimates for conventional gas leakag e, he said. However, reducing methane leakage from shale gas is an important issue that regulators should address.

In the face of strong industry resistance, the EPA has proposed regulations to require capture of methane at the time of well completion. Regulations are necessary since economic considerations alone have not driven such reductions, said Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University and one of Howarth’s co-authors.

However, plugging the methane leaks downstream from the wellhead in transmission pipelines, compressor stations, and decades-old distribution pipelines under the streets of cities and towns throughout the U.S. and Canada would be extraordinarily expensive, Ingraffea said.

“Would the capital be better spent on constructing a smart electric grid and other technologies that move towards a truly green energy future?” he asked.


It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned this, but, new technologies were developed in 2005, just as the Bush Administration freed up fracking from regulation under the Clean Water Act. The process took off and within two years, methane levels in the atmosphere began to promptly escalate. Coincidence? I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to place some bets.

Jonny Mnemonic disagrees with me on hydraulic fracturing. When I asked him about his opinion on it, here is what he had to say.

By Jonny Mnemonic
I think the fracking is actually a mitigation effort. There was no fracking involved when those 4,000 square miles of methane hydrates began melting off the US East Coast. It looks to me like all that gas is going to come out, period, even if we're not involved at all. The question is, do we take it out ourselves and use it for energy or otherwise bottle it up somewhere, or does it go straight into the atmosphere and heat up the planet, exacerbating the hydrogen sulfide problem and destroying human civilization with huge fires and explosions. Honestly, it looks too late for the surface of the Earth to me already, BUT the more we can contain the damage, the quicker people might be able to live on the surface again at some distant point in the future. Like, instead of it taking 5 million years, maybe we're cutting that down to 1 million years by dealing with at least SOME of the gas/oil ourselves. Or maybe if we can bio-engineer some stuff, we could reduce that time to thousands of years or something.

So, normally I'd be against fracking. But seeing as it doesn't look like we have a lot of choice at this point - the gas is coming out regardless - I guess I'm for it. Worth a try anyway. And hey, 9% going into the atmosphere now is better than 100% going into the atmosphere later. We're just kind of small compared to the problem, and we have virtually no infrastructure in place NOW to deal with the oceanic methane deposits, so the land deposits are all we can really do much about. And this isn't something where you can wait and see if the gas starts gushing out. Some of the deposits are below big cities. They'd be incinerated. Too late to do anything then. So 'they' have to assume that any gas in any deposit IS going to come out, and do something about it NOW. Looking around at the world today, I'd make that assumption too, especially if I lived above or near any big gas deposits.

I'm a 'green' guy myself. This all grates on me too. And fracking is nothing compared to the crazy stuff we may have to try as our situation continues to deteriorate. Nuking the methane hydrates on the ocean floors, along the coasts of the northern hemisphere? I bet someone is looking at that possibility or they already have, as a desperation tactic.


Continued...



posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 08:48 AM
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My Response to Jonny
So how do we bottle it? How do we contain it? I know burning methane would allow it to enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, which is a much better alternative. Is this a possibility or not? I know you've said that you think it may be too late already...it seems we just allow these chain reactions to fuel the chain reaction.

I believe your right that it's too late to do anything about fracking. It's created a heck of a lot of jobs, saved a lot of money for folks on gas bills which is a good thing when the economy is down and people need that extra help and the future of natural gas looks very bright for America. We're the world's #1 producer and only a few countries are using right now but that's about to change and several American companies are currently working on transporting it oversees. Obama holds several applications on his desk right now to blow this industry up and that means big bucks for America. But, that's also scary to think that hydrolic fracking is still only in its beginning stages if this is going to contribute a heck of a lot more to the methane release.

Here's some info on the process of fracking - but first a couple of points...they go thousands of feet deeper than usual natural gas wells...they use multiple chemicals in their cocktail...the chemical cocktail mixed with water and sand hits the shale in a high pressure explosion that blasts the methane out.

The methane is captured but as the article in my previous post points out, in two different studies 4% in Denver and 9% in Utah, is escaping into the atmosphere. This is just two fields studied. It's said that for methane gas to be better than coal emissions it has to be less than 3.2% that escapes.

Fracking: The Process
Fracking - also called hydro-fracking or, officially, horizontal drilling coupled with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing - is a relatively new process of natural gas extraction. Here's a step-by-step look:

A well is drilled vertically to the desired depth, then turns ninety degrees and continues horizontally for several thousand feet into the shale believed to contain the trapped natural gas.

A mix of water, sand, and various chemicals is pumped into the well at high pressure in order to create fissures in the shale through which the gas can escape.

Natural gas escapes through the fissures and is drawn back up the well to the surface, where it is processed, refined, and shipped to market.

Wastewater (also called "flowback water" or "produced water") returns to the surface after the fracking process is completed. In Michigan, this water is contained in steel tanks until it can be stored long-term by deep injection in oil and gas waste wells.

Fracking is fundamentally different than traditional gas extraction methods.

Fracking wells go thousands of feet deeper than traditional natural gas wells.

Fracking requires between two and five million gallons of local freshwater per well - up to 100 times more than traditional extraction methods.

Fracking utilizes "fracking fluid," a mix of water, sand, and a cocktail of toxic chemicals. While companies performing fracking have resisted disclosure of the exact contents of the fracking fluid by claiming that this information is proprietary, studies of fracking waste indicate that the fluid contains: formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, and boric acids, among hundreds of other chemical contaminants.

Source of information on the fracking process; cleanwater.org...


By Jonny Mnemonic
Oh, I know, fracking is some gnarly stuff. But what if they already KNOW that the surface of the Earth will soon be uninhabitable? And the oceans and land will die off hard, little life left, etc. So, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things if there are some toxic chemicals around, or if radiation from Fukushima floats around, or if we nuke the crap out of the oceans. (And I have no clue if that'd actually work, but it would be better if that stuff came out as CO2 instead of as methane.) In other words, they may really only be looking at what's best in the very long-term, because they already KNOW that our options are off-planet or underground, for a very, very long time. So, get as much gas out as possible, burn it up, use the energy for productive things, don't worry too much about the environment because the hydrogen sulfide problem is going to exterminate mostly everything anyway. And by the time we can live on the surface again, the chemicals and radiation and such will be gone, along with the hydrogen sulfide and the methane too.

That's why they don't care much about Fukushima. It doesn't really matter. Same with hazardous chemicals. We're going to have a planetary atmosphere filled with clouds of hydrogen sulfide, which is an extremely flammable gas-chamber-quality gas. We couldn't possibly do anything that could compare with that, even if we were fully committed to polluting the planet as much as we could.

That's why I think this is it for life on the surface: 'they' are ALREADY acting like it is. Ignoring Fukushima. The underground bunkers. The mass fatality legislation. Yada yada. This same ol' ancient extinction event is upon us, and they know it. We aren't going to be here on the surface for much longer. So little things like environmental pollution just don't matter, at least in the long run. If you're gonna have to wear HazMat suits on the surface, with positive air pressure connected to a known good air supply (necessary for hydrogen sulfide), then that'll keep you safe from the other stuff too. Otherwise, get below ground or off-planet. I'm sure they'll scavenge what they can before everything burns up or corrodes though. The stores of preppers will probably provide lots of useful stuff for the survivors once the gas has killed people on the surface.

In the meantime, they're just buying us what time they can. I don't think human beings created this problem, by the way. We probably - in the long run - made things better, by burning up a lot of the gas and oil and coal slowly, over an extended period of time. This has happened before without us. We'd be overly arrogant and egocentric to think we're the cause this time.

I do still believe more people could survive if we faced reality and committed ourselves 100% to creating more/better Plan B facilities. Of course, a lot of people will go nuts when they realize what's happening too, and that won't be fun. But I feel like we're fiddling while Rome burns.


Jonny’s way of looking at things is a bit depressing, yet, a bit of realism does bite you in the ass. We’ll take a look at the possible options and what the government may or may not be doing in a later chapter.



posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 09:07 AM
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a reply to: Rezlooper

This is SUCH a destructive practice...

It reminds me of that movie "Fern Gully" where the logging company comes in with a huge machine and begins wiping out the precious forest ecosystem, all for the purposes of harvesting natural resources and making profits.

If you were to look at it from nature or an animal's perspective, just think of all the loud noise and chaos and destruction we humans bring to their serene natural habitats. It's just so sad - I really think fracking is one of the more destructive practices because essentially you are disrupting all of these natural barriers and directly injecting the ground with water and chemicals. The water and chemicals can seep into places it shouldn't and get into underground aquifers. I don't even know much about this subject but what I do know is that it is awful for the environment and that the executives from companies that do this will defend it all the way to their graves.

NO. MORE. FRACKING!!!!!!




posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 09:20 AM
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Nice Thread Rezlooper, I always enjoy reading through your info. I can see it makes a lot of sense, you coming from the I'm not making anything out of this as opposed to The "Energy Companies" claims that this is safe (They Make $$$$ out of this). A Star and Flag for you and keep up the good work
Peace, Arjunanda a reply to: Rezlooper



posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 12:56 PM
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originally posted by: FamCore
a reply to: Rezlooper

This is SUCH a destructive practice...

It reminds me of that movie "Fern Gully" where the logging company comes in with a huge machine and begins wiping out the precious forest ecosystem, all for the purposes of harvesting natural resources and making profits.

If you were to look at it from nature or an animal's perspective, just think of all the loud noise and chaos and destruction we humans bring to their serene natural habitats. It's just so sad - I really think fracking is one of the more destructive practices because essentially you are disrupting all of these natural barriers and directly injecting the ground with water and chemicals. The water and chemicals can seep into places it shouldn't and get into underground aquifers. I don't even know much about this subject but what I do know is that it is awful for the environment and that the executives from companies that do this will defend it all the way to their graves.

NO. MORE. FRACKING!!!!!!



Yeah, it really is sad how blinded by money people become.



posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 04:32 PM
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I am truly shocked at the "Fracking Angle" in this series of your posts. The next quote from your fantastic thread really caught my eye.



Last year, researchers at Duke University looked at 68 fracking sites and found groundwater with methane concentrations 17 times higher than in wells located where fracking was not taking place. Some of the levels were higher than “immediate action” hazard levels. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally began to conduct its first in-depth study of the risks to drinking water. Preliminary results released late last year revealed drinking water contaminated by benzene, a known carcinogen and one of the chemicals used in fracking.


Trust me on this one, Benzene is the worst toxin ever created in my opinion which comes from personal experience.
It (Benzene) is also an additive in commercial and Fighter Jets fuels...... Now we have to look up and down to see what is going to kill us first.

Good stuff posted here as expected and now I am off to read some more.
S&F
Regards, Iwinder
edit on 26-2-2015 by Iwinder because: (no reason given)

edit on 26-2-2015 by Iwinder because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 26 2015 @ 06:09 PM
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a reply to: Iwinder

Crazy to think these companies don't have to reveal what's in their cocktails. Chemicals like Benzene and who knows what else contaminating ground water.




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