Thursday, 4 July 2013

On the radio again...

Boris Johnson has called for drilling companies to leave 'no stone unfracked' in their quest for shale gas, even if it means drilling under London (paywalled link).

Here's your favourite applied geophysicist talking to BBC Radio London about his comments:

At first glance, drilling in London seems a little crazy - surely there's not enough space! However, when you look across at the US, there is drilling in close proximity to large cities, most notably in and around Dallas-Fort Worth, where there are, for example, well pads within Dallas Airport, and on the University Campus. It is common practice to tuck these sites away in industrial estates, and to build pre-fab mock-buildings around the pad so that it cannot be seen. 

However, I suspect that it will be a while before shale gas drilling ever comes to London. Firstly, it's not clear whether there's any gas under London to exploit - companies are at present looking further to the south, in places like Balcombe. The BGS will be releasing a report covering the south of England next year, so we will have to wait until then to know for sure whether there's anything under London.

Moreover, even if there is economically recoverable shale gas under London, I think it will be a while before anyone moves to try to extract it. Although drilling in urban areas is possible, it is more expensive and challenging than drilling in relatively empty countryside. Moreover, we've already seen that there are huge volumes of shale gas to the north. I suspect that companies will be focusing their energies on the Bowland for the coming years - this will be the formation that determines whether UK shale gas succeeds or fails.


  1. So re the wastewater at Fort-Worth, given the absence of ponds and what seems like the modest size of the tanks relative to the total water requirement for the lifetime of the well, it seems quite likely they are re-injecting the wastewater (which is after all the preferred method of wastewater disposal for the oil and gas industry in the USA, is it not)?

    1. Hi Anon,

      I think maybe you've misunderstood the hydraulic fracturing process? The waste water is all produced in a couple of days after fracturing. After that, very little waste water is produced, so the small tanks you see are sufficient.

      During the actual hydraulic fracturing process (which would have lasted a couple of weeks, I imagine, for multi-stage lateral wells), there would have been larger tanks to store the flowback water. This fluid will then have been transported either to a processing facility, where it is cleaned and returned to the water system, or to a re-injection facility. Once the hydraulic fracturing process is complete, larger tanks can be removed, leaving what you see in the pictures.

      Fluid will not be re-injected from these pads - there are separate re-injection facilities for waste fluid injection (often these take waste fluid from conventional oil/gas operations as well as waste from shale).