Monday 12 March 2012


Have you heard that fracking causes earthquakes and water contamination? If you're reading this blog, then chances are you have. Have you heard of Dimock? Possibly not, although you may have without realising it. Dimock is sometimes referred to as ground-zero of the fracking debate. Sometimes it's portrayed as being some kind of fracking-induced Chernobyl, a once verdant wasteland destroyed by man's folly: (a not-great example here: but just google 'Dimock fracking' and see what comes up).

Inevitably, in such a media climate, this group have slipped under the radar:

If you're interested in fracking, and the true story of what's happening at Dimock, then their site is well worth reading. I wish they'd been picked up on more by the media. In short, they represent most of the rest of Dimock (apart from the 11 families suing the oil company) who resent seeing their town described as some sort of environmental wasteland when in fact they've seen little disruption caused by the fracking, and little evidence of any contamination.

They go on to accuse the 11 'Dimock families' of some pretty shady practices. For example:
Methane is a natural occurrence. Methane has been present in the water of Susquehanna County for hundreds of years. We have many lifelong rsesidents who are willing, and able, to attest to that. As a matter of fact, one of those lifelong residents actually grew up with one of the 11 litigants. He tells of the childhood escapades he and his litigant friend shared in. The two of them would go into the woods (as young children) to hide out and smoke. They would go down by the creek and light the creek water on fire. Mind you, this was over 50 years ago. Why doesn’t the litigant remember this? Who in the world would have thought to put a cigarette lighter next to their water faucet and light their water? In my opinion, only one who had prior knowledge that it was even possible.
Also, that
The litigants are collecting gas royalties. Enough said.
 And finally,
Their initial claim was that their water had been contaminated due to methane migration from natural gas wells drilled near their properties.

That claim has now blossomed into claims of contaminants in their water including, but not limited to, ethylbenzene, xylene, ethylene glycol (antifreeze) and propylene glycol (a naturally occurring by-product in the fermentation of some commercially packaged beers. Propylene glycol is rapidly degraded in all environmental media. These chemicals are not used in the hydro-fracturing process and, interestingly enough, these chemicals were not detected in 2008 pre-drill samples taken at more than a dozen water supplies along Carter Road. There was a toluene contaminant found this spring and summer by Scranton-based Farnham and Associates Inc. which was at levels 1,000 times higher than the toluene levels detected in two wells in 2008. The firm’s president, Daniel Farnham, said. “I’m not here to argue with the gas company,” he said. “My objective is just to illustrate that something’s going on here and it needs to be investigated.”
 Yes, I should say there needs to be an investigation. Chemicals miraculously appearing in water wells 3 years after drilling has stopped sounds suspicious to me.

For obvious reasons, I can't possibly comment on the truth of these claims. However, the thing I find most interesting is that the attention and coverage garnered by Josh Fox, Mark Ruffalo et al., swooping in for a quick publicity shot, completely dwarfs any mention of groups of local people like this.

Next time: I'm probably going to talk about CCS - according to Channel 4 news tonight it looks like things could be moving forward again in this respect. Stay tuned......

Sunday 11 March 2012

More negative public perception for shale gas

<inserts tongue int cheek>Hate to say I told you so, but even Dilbert associates fracking with earthquakes and water pollution: </removes tongue from cheek>. I must admit, during my teenage years I was a bit of a Dilbert fan (my brother had all of the books, which I used to borrow).

While I appreciate that a Dilbert cartoon is hardly something to get worked up about, a worrying trend is developing (as noted in my previous post about the UoT study) where shale gas becomes connected in the public sphere with earthquakes and pollution, and little else of benefit, with obvious consequences for the future development of this potentially valuable resource. This despite only one properly documented and evinced (albeit still hotly disputed) example of water contamination (Pavilion, Wy), and one incidence of the generation of a small earthquake (Blackpool, UK) amid the now millions of hydrofractured wells.

I'll stop here for an aside, which made me doubly chuckle when I saw the Dilbert cartoon. During my teenage years I was also a bit of a Clive Cussler fan (again, my brother had the books, I borrowed, etc etc etc......). One book, 'The Treasure of Khan' ( featured a Mongolia oil mogul as the baddie, who'd got his hands on a machine capable of creating earthquakes. If memory serves, apparently it worked in a manner not unlike fracking. Obviously, in this work of FICTION, Dirk Pitt battles through heroically to save the day. In reality, of all the fracking in the US and UK, only two fracks (at Cuadrilla's Blackpool site) have ever produced felt quakes. But it's good to see that Mr Cussler was well ahead of the curve on this one.......

Aside over - how big were the earthquakes produced at Blackpool? While I've not seen any raw data myself, I'll warrant that they wouldn't have been as significant as those produced by Rihanna et al during concerts in Hyde Park. I look forward to seeing all those anti-fracking activists spending as much time trying to get Rihanna banned from these shores as well (and if you want to talk about local contamination, I've seen the aftermath of the Reading festival, and it ain't pretty!).

Net benefits of a rock concert in Hyde Park: some people get to pay lots of money to an already wealthy artist to have a good time for a few hours. Net benefits of shale gas development in the UK - the potential for hundreds of new jobs created directly, billions for the exchequer to help pay off our deficit, economic stimulation provided by cheaper gas prices providing a stimulus to our manufacturing industries, and facilitating a switch from coal-fired to gas-fired power stations, reducing CO2 emissions. Yet if I tried to get Rihanna banned I'd be (rightly) considered a weirdo, and a massive kill-joy, but pushing for an outright ban on shale gas some people would consider me a hero.

Still, I do love a bit of Dilbert ;-)