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From the Financial Times 16 October 2013

AMEC forecast just 15,900 to 24,300 nationwide - direct & indirect

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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Whose fault will it be?

Fault lines are in the news again with the two recent significant quakes in the UK – Wales 2 weeks ago and Cumbria just this morning. How careful do they need to be about fracking near a fault line?

In 2012 the Refine Group published a study which suggested that

The chances of rogue fractures due to shale gas fracking operations extending beyond 0.6 kilometres from the injection source is a fraction of one percent, according to new research led by Durham University.

According to an article published by Refine today

“Microseismic data was used in previous Durham University research from 2012. This suggested a minimum vertical distance of 600m between the depth of fracking and aquifers used for drinking water, which now forms the basis of hydraulic fracturing regulation in the UK’s Infrastructure Act 2015.”

The same article states that by inputting revised parameters into their model they have now decided that:

The risk of man-made earthquakes due to fracking is greatly reduced if high-pressure fluid injection used to crack underground rocks is 895m away from faults in the Earth’s crust, according to new research.

The recommendation, from the ReFINE (Researching Fracking) consortium, is based on published microseismic data from 109 fracking operations carried out predominantly in the USA.

So it would appear that the limits imposed by the 2015 Infrastructure Act are based on data which the Refine Group now considers to be about 50% underestimated.

And we are supposed to believe that our regulations are “gold standard”? How long will it take for them to update the regulations I wonder? That gold certainly needs to be ReFined a bit more!

Will the earth move for you?

We woke up this morning to earn that Mosser in Cumbria (NW of Buttermere) had been the epicentre of the UK’s latest significant earthquake (Mag 3.2) , following the one in Wales 2 weeks ago (Mag 4.6).

The location of this quake is about 60 miles from the centre of Cuadrilla’s PEDL 165.

The earth tremors allegedly caused by Cuadrilla at Preese Hall in 2011 were nowhere near as powerful as either of the two recent quakes, measuring as they did 2.3 on the Richter scale on April 1st 2011, followed by an event in May that measured 1.5 on the scale.  However, the two 2011 tremor were sufficient to deform the well casing of the Preese Hall well. On that occasion the integrity of the well bore was not compromised but it clearly demonstrated the potential for a pollution event being caused by seismic activity.

Because of the logarithmic basis of the Richter scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; as an estimate of energy, each whole number step in the magnitude scale corresponds to the release of about 31 times more energy than the amount associated with the preceding whole number value. So as we can see the two naturally occurring earthquakes in the last couple of weeks would have had the power to do rather more damage to any sub-surface infrastructure close to their epicentres than the quakes at Preese Hall did.

Maybe this is why Professor Mike Stephenson – Director of Science and Technology – British Geological Survey went on record as saying:

“What you have to be able to do when you decide you want to hydraulic fracture is make sure there are no faults in the area. That’s really very very important”

Is the Fylde a faulted area? It would appear that it is! Draw your own conclusions.

(Image courtesy of Prof David Smythe)

So shale gas is a damp squib

Damp squibIt was all going so well for the frackers. Report after report told us that UK shale gas was going to provide security of supply, cheaper gas, and oodles upon oodles of jobs.

Doubters were caricatured as unpatriotic, Putin funded, fools who could not see the fossil fuel El Dorado that our government was predicting, nor understand the key role that fracked gas was going to play as a bridge fuel.

But then it seemed somebody seems to have told the government some things that it found distinctly unpalatable, and which it has (not totally successfully) tried to bury at the same time as continuing its dash to foist shale gas developments onto unwilling communities.

A report (discovered by FoI by Greenpeace) seems to have been published in 2016 which told the government that far from expecting 4,000 wells to have been drilled and fracked by 2032, it was likely that by 2025 we will only have seen 155 drilled, leaving an incredible 550 wells in each remaining year to be drilled to reach that target.

And what does that 155 well forecast actually mean? Using the Estimated Ultimate Recovery rates from the IoD report (3.2 bcf a well) we get a total extracted (over the 20 – 30 year life of the well of about 930 bcf). If we allow 20 years that’s just 47 bcf a year of production from wells drilled up to 2025.

In the last 4 quarters reported in the Government DUKES report the UK has used 2,900 bcf of gas, so the average annual production expected from those 155 wells is about 1.6% of UK demand. Even if we used Cuadrilla’s highly optimistic forecasts of 6 bfc a well that only makes a drop look like a drip – maybe 3% of UK annual demand?

You would have to be truly desperate to pretend that that will have any significant impact on anything.

It seems that UK fracking really is turning out to be the epitome of a damp squib – a firework that fails to go off – but like any unexploded firework it is still dangerous, which is why we have written to Mark Menzies MP asking him to insist that the government makes this report public. We need to be in possession of the full facts as we face governmental interference in the democratic process, and their attempts to force a failed agenda onto local communities.

It has also been interesting to see how the industry and its supporters have reacted to this news. The Greenpeace article states that:

Cuadrilla, the UK’s largest fracking firm, which produced its own modelling in 2012 that showed many more wells than the government now expects, said the discrepancy could be down to “technical drilling advancements” that “allow operators to access rich gas zones from just one well without the need for multiple vertical wells.”

However in 2012 Cuadrilla Resources were fully aware of these developments as we can see from their evidence submitted to the Energy and Climate Change Committee in October 2012, where they seemed to be suggesting that they has already mastered these “technical drilling advancements”

“In the case of onshore shale development, on-going drilling of new wells does not mean populating the countryside with ever-increasing drilling locations. Horizontal wells can radiate from the same well bore like the tines of a fork, and radially in several directions.”

So given that we know that can’t be the real reason for the discrepancy perhaps Cuadrilla would like to have another go at explaining the discrepancy?

Meanwhile, serial pro-fracking commentator Michael Baker (AKA Yetypu) had this to say on the Daily Telegraph article comments:

Perhaps he hadn’t quite worked out that if the IoD’s forecast for the number of wells was “pie in the sky“, that means that the derived forecasts for investment and employment which depended on that level of activity were logically also “pie in the sky“. Oops!

EUR having a laugh aren’t you ?

Our old friend Ben Webster – the Times’ fracking sage – reported recently on Cuadrilla’s tests from their PNR well which were “very encouraging”. He told us:

Cuadrilla said that the results were in line with estimates in 2013 by the British Geological Survey for the Bowland Shale under northern England.

Cuadrilla expects today to start drilling Britain’s first exploratory horizontal shale well and has permission to drill up to four at the site. The company’s tests suggest that each well could extract enough gas to meet the needs of 5,000 homes for 30 years.

Hmm OK then let’s dig a little shall we (you know like journalists used to do before they just republished press releases)?

According to OFGEM the average home in the UK uses around 12,000 kWh of gas each year (using the medium assumption)

It is the amount of energy that a ‘typical’ household, with a medium level of energy consumption, uses in a year.


12,000 kWh is equivalent to about 39,369 cubic feet of natural gas

So Cuadrilla seem to be saying that from each well (presumably they mean each lateral) they expect their Estimated Ultimate Recovery (EUR) to be 39,369 x 5,000 x 30 or 5.9 billion cubic feet (bcf).

This 12,000 kWh , by the way, is a reduction on historic averages (source https://www.ovoenergy.com/guides/energy-guides/the-average-gas-bill-average-electricity-bill-compared.html)

If we used an average of about 15,000 kWh the EUR would be commensurately higher at an eye-watering (or lip-smacking if you are Cuadrilla perhaps) 7.4 bcf.

This would mean that (assuming they believe these results could be replicated across the PEDL licence area) with the 100  x 40 well pads they are on record as wanting to wanting to develop, they could extract 23 Trillion Cubic Feet (tcf) of gas, which very conveniently is about the amount (20 tcf) they have been claiming to be able to extract. (Or nearly 30 tcf if we used the 15,000 kWh average!)

If you were to take 20 tcf, divide is by 4,000 wells you would get and EUR of about 5 bcf each. If you translated this to houses worth of gas over 30 years you would then get about 5,000.  Of course Cuadrilla’s assumptions are based on core samples and not convenient arithmetic aren’t they?

Less conveniently the suggested EUR figure is almost twice the 3.2 bcf per well suggested by shale gas PR Corin Taylor in the Cuadrilla sponsored IoD report from 2013.

How does this compare to the US experience?

Well every year the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) re-estimates initial production (IP) rates and production decline curves, which determine estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) per well and total technically recoverable resources (TRR). Their publication in 2017 is based on data as of January 2015.

Looking at “Table 9.3 U.S. unproved technically recoverable tight/shale oil and gas resources by play (as of January 1, 2015)” we can see the average EURs by play within each region for natural gas.

If we sort the plays into ascending order and compare it with what Cuadrilla seem to be claiming we can see that, first of all, the vast majority of plays have EURs less than 1 bcf / well and only 1 play (Haynesville-Bossier-LA ) has an average EUR greater than 3.

If we compare the data with Cuadrilla’s claim it is evident that they must really have had some super special results for them to be claiming average EURs in the order of 6.

Now we accept that we can’t read across exactly from the US experience, but this difference is so massive that the  Booths store at Penwortham must have sold out of champagne as all of the Cuadrilla execs blew by from the office to get some celebration juice.

Bottoms up! It’s a miracle!

(And of course we know from their rugby pitch analogy just how exact they like to be when it comes to figures!)

 

BEIS Wave 24 gives palliative relief to the frackers

Today’s release of BEIS data for Wave 24 of their quarterly polling gives some palliative relief to the ailing UK fracking industry. It shows that the relentless slide towards single figure percentage support has been, at least temporarily, halted. The industry, however, are still a long way from reversing the plummeting support over the last few years.

Wave 24

Support has gone up from the all time low of 13% to 16% and opposition has fallen from the all time high of 36% to 32%. Keeping in mind that small fluctuations can be expected in any data sample, and that this particular sample’s professed knowledge of fracking was 3% lower than the last 2 samples,  the industry are still a long way from reversing the inexorable trend that is shown below.


Equally interesting is the collapse in the acceptance of the industry’s standard PR lines. When asked why they support fracking the reason “Good for local jobs and investment” has fallen from 28% to 18% and “May result in cheaper energy bills” has fallen from 26% to 21%.

In spite of the huge resources thrown at PR by the industry the story is clear. Their efforts to persuade the general public are failing miserably.

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