Taking drops from the ocean

April 19, 2016

A new report by the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) says oceans could rise by a metre this century if we don’t stop emitting huge amounts of carbon and methane.

Around 95% of New Zealand’s rivers flow into the sea.

If we had a considerable increase in water storage and irrigation would that make a difference or would that be so insignificant that it would just be taking drops from the ocean?

While we’re on the topic of climate change, (via Kiwiblog),  fracking is good for the environment:

. . . As a nation, the United States reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent from last year. Over the past 14 years, our carbon emissions are down more than 10 percent. On a per-unit-of-GDP basis, U.S. carbon emissions are down by closer to 20 percent.

Even more stunning: We’ve reduced our carbon emissions more than virtually any other nation in the world, including most of Europe.

How can this be? We never ratified the Kyoto Treaty. We never adopted a national cap-and-trade system, or a carbon tax, as so many of the sanctimonious Europeans have done.

The answer isn’t that the EPA has regulated CO2 out of the economy. With strict emission standards, the EPA surely has started to strangle our domestic industries, such as coal, and our electric utilities. But that’s not the big story here.

The primary reason carbon emissions are falling is because of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. . .

Yet those of a dark green persuasion are strongly opposed to fracking.

Fracking technology for shale oil and gas drilling is supposed to be evil. Some states have outlawed it. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out against it in recent weeks. Schoolchildren have been bombarded with green propaganda about all the catastrophic consequences of fracking.

They are mostly lies. Fracking is simply a new way to get at America’s vast storehouse of tens of trillions of dollars worth of shale oil and gas that lies beneath us, coast to coast — from California to upstate New York. Fracking produces massive amounts of natural gas, and, as a consequence, natural gas prices have fallen in the past decade from above $8 per million BTUs to closer to $2 this year — a 75 percent reduction — due to the spike in domestic supplies.

This free fall in prices means that America is using far more natural gas for heating and electricity and much less coal.

Here is how the International Energy Agency put it: “In the United States, (carbon) emissions declined by 2 percent, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.” . . .

Science and technology have achieved far more than politics and emotion.

Fracking okay with safeguards

June 5, 2014

Environment Commissioner Dr Jan Wright has given a qualified okay to fracking – with safegaurds:

. . . In her 2012 report into fracking, Commissioner Dr Jan Wright found that much of the concern about fracking was associated with the expansion of the industry. The technique of hydraulic fracturing – fracking – could be used to extract ‘unconventional’ oil and gas from many parts of the country outside Taranaki. In some parts of the United States and Australia, this has led to oil and gas wells multiplying so rapidly that regulators have found themselves “scrambling to catch up”. . . .

Dr Wright has made six recommendations in the report. They are:

• The Government should develop a national policy statement paying particular attention to ‘unconventional’ oil and gas.

• Revision of regional council plans should include better rules for dealing with oil and gas wells. Most council plans do not even distinguish between drilling for water and drilling for oil and gas.

• Wells need to be designed to minimise the risk of leaking into aquifers.

• Processes around who pays if something goes wrong need to be improved. Abandoned wells need to be monitored – the older a well is, the more likely it is to leak.

• Regulations on hazardous substances at well sites need to be better enforced.

• The disposal of waste from wells by spreading it on farmland needs review. There have been instances of farm animals grazing these areas before the breakdown of hydrocarbons is complete.

Although she has found that the local environmental impacts of oil and gas drilling can be managed, Dr Wright said that she does not want the report to be seen as giving a big tick to the expansion of the industry in New Zealand.

“I would much rather see a focus on ‘green growth’ because my major concern is the impact of the burning of fossil fuels on the global climate.” . . .

The full report is here and the Q&A is here.

One of the questions is why the Commissioner didn’t call for a moratorium, the answer is:

Commissioner has identified a number of problems that need to be fixed by Government and councils. The Commissioner has found that a moratorium is not justified because New Zealand has laws in place that can be used to prepare for a rapid expansion of the industry.

The usual anti-growth groups are using the report to call for a moratorium, but that isn’t the Commissioner’s recommendation.

She is very firm on the need for better regulation but she’s not arguing for fracking to stop.

USA fracking helps NZ dairying

October 31, 2013

Tweet of the day:

Federated Farmers@FedFarmers 46m

Fracking will mean the United States will be energy self-sufficient that will make the US dairy Industry uncompetitive. ..good news that!

We like good news for dairying in #gigatownoamaru .

Shale be right?

November 5, 2012

Untapped shale resources could bring enormous economic benefits to Britain:

The amount is bigger than previously thought and would potentially bring energy price stability and independence from imports for decades.

Although only about ten per cent  of the gas is in unpopulated areas suitable for extraction, it would still be worth £150 billion.

But there is a but:

But critics say the environmental cost is too high for ‘fracking’ – or hydraulic fracturing, the controversial method of extracting gas by forcing water, sand and chemicals at high pressure 6,000ft underground.

Fracking is controversial but Houston’s Chimera Energy Corporation has announced that they are licensing a new method for extracting oil and gas from shale fields that doesn’t contaminate ground water resources because it uses exothermic reactions instead of water to fracture shale.

The potential to make £150 billion would justify more research although that won’t please fracking opponents.

How bad is fracking?

August 28, 2012

Kiwiblog might be guilty of hyperbole in saying fracking saves the planet but it is reducing carbon emissions:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the US has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for “cautious optimism” about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that “ultimately people follow their wallets” on global warming.

“There’s a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources,” said Roger Pielke Jr, a climate expert at the University of Colorado.

In a little-noticed technical report, the US Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that total US CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for US energy policy.

While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.

A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from US$7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced. As a result, utilities are relying more than ever on gas-fired generating plants. . . 

. . . The boom in gas production has come about largely because of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Large volumes of water, plus sand and chemicals, are injected to break shale rock apart and free the gas. . .

. . . Despite unanswered questions about the environmental effects of drilling, the gas boom “is actually one of a number of reasons for cautious optimism,” Mann said. “There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there. It is important to point out that there is still time” to address global warning.

This might not be a long-term change but market forces and fracking are reducing carbon emissions.

There are questions about the safety of fracking. Drew Hutton, president of the Lock The Gate Alliance in Australia; and Rosalind Archer, Associate Professor at the Department of Engineering Science at Auckland University debated the issue on Nine to Noon last Thursday.

Professor Archer (at about 15:50) said there is evidence of a small number of problems caused by very bad practices, shoddy well construction and very poor monitoring. But:

 . . . there are other jurisdictions where, or instance, the US State of Ohio has records of 80,000 fractured wells with no evidence of ground water contamination.

In my opinion this is something that can be done right . .  the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency said she thinks it can be done right. Recently the Royal Society for Science and Engineering in the UK also came out saying that fundamentally this is a process that can be done right so I think New Zealand just needs to learn from international best practice. . .

That practice is improving all the time and it is possible the debate could be overtaken by technical advances:

Chimera Energy Corporation of Houston, Texas, has announced that they are licensing a new method for extracting oil and gas from shale fields that doesn’t contaminate ground water resources because it uses exothermic reactions instead of water to fracture shale. . .

. . . Despite the fact that fracking is used mainly in deep, sealed geological deposits, there is the fear that it may pose a danger to groundwater. Depending on the method involved and the type of oil field, various other materials are added to the water used in fracking, such as sand, foaming agents, gels and friction reducers. The concern is that the water, which is pumped out after the process, may either leak these substances plus radioactive radon from the well directly into aquifer layers, or contaminate water supplies after pumping out.

For this reason, some fracking engineers prefer non-hydraulic methods. One of these, used recently in New York State, swaps the water for gelled propane. The idea being that the propane reverts to a gas at the end of the process and can be pumped out, leaving any additives behind in the well, much like boiling seawater and leaving behind the salt.

The Chimera process takes this a step further by eliminating any working liquid. Details of the process have not been made public yet due to patent concerns, but Chimera Energy uses what is called “dry fracturing” or “exothermic extraction.” First developed in China, this involves using hot gases rather than liquid to fracture the shale. This was originally intended for wells in arctic regions where water used in fracking freezes, but Chimera Energy has developed it for general use. . . 

 If this proves to be practical and safe it still might not be good enough for everyone who opposes fracking.

But then some opposition isn’t to fracking in particular it’s just the means of demonstrating opposition to mineral extraction in general.

MP challenges city to say yes

July 26, 2012

Dunedin has joined some other councils in calling moratorium on fracking – hydraulic fracturing.

National MP Michael Woodhouse, has responded by challenging the city to say yes.

He’s calling on Dunedin’s city leaders to publicly state their support for oil and gas exploration as long as environmental risks can be managed.

Speaking in yesterday’s General Debate he compared the national GDP per capita of $46,000 with that of Taranaki where the GDP per capita is $88,000.

In that province agriculture, tourism and oil and gas exploration co-exist. The latter adds significantly to the economic and social benefits without environmental problems.

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