Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Telling The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

"We can see right next door to where shale gas development is going on that we do have circulation of surface (waters) down to five kilometres depth and back to surface again."
"Not only do we see transmission of water from the crustal levels, but we also see transmission of thermogenic gas from the crust up to the surface in these spring systems."
Steve Grasby, scientist, Geological Survey of Canada
Thermal wells point to ‘worst case’ leaks from the deep
Spring water from deep underground carries plenty of heat and chemicals that feed orange microbial mats growing on the rocks at Larsen Spring, one of nine thermal springs in Northern B.C. and the southern Yukon.   Photograph by: Steve Grasby/GSC , Postmedia News
"If you have a leaking well and it doesn't manifest at surface, you don't know where it is leaking to. It could be leaking into some other reservoir that you don't want it to leak into for economic reasons."
"Many old wells weren't abandoned in any way that could handle thermal stress, and now those areas can't be steamed and therefore the bitumen can't be recovered."
Theresa Watson, engineer, former board member of regulatory agency overseeing Alberta's energy industry, Calgary

Hydraulic fracturing is commonplace now in the energy extraction industry throughout North America. It is a mechanical-engineering method whereby hard-to-get-at natural fossil fuels deep within the Earth's crust can be extracted when water and chemicals are pumped under high pressure deep into the earth via a drilling pipe to fracture the shale holding gas or oil to effect its release.

Because it's been going on for quite awhile, and no reports were thought to have been received that there were any deleterious effects, it is considered a safe extraction process that would not imperil vital ground water resources. That's the story for public consumption most often encountered, reassurances from large corporate energy sources.

And then reports appear to now be coming in that raise questions about the safety of fracking. When 1,850 metres deep into the earth, fracking fluids under immense pressure were propelled unintentionally into a neighbouring well and 75,000 litres of fracking fluids were sent up the well and ultimately onto a nearby field, the oil and chemicals polluting it a different story emerged. That was in January of 2012.

Comes news that over forty such episodes, named "frack hits" were reported in Alberta and British Columbia since 2009. Nothing to be concerned about, supposedly, as regulators enacted new rules meant to avoid such 'interactions' between wells. A problem exists in that in Alberta alone there are over 450,000 wells, many of them long abandoned. Because it is not always known where the abandoned wells are, such 'communication' between wells can take place; what is concerning is that they have the potential to leak into groundwater aquifers.

Suddenly, fracking doesn't look as though it will live up to the optimistic assessments of those multi-nationals drilling across Canada and the United States giving assurances that there will be no environmental repercussions of any note; don't worry, be happy. Don't be concerned, in other words about the thousands of old wells in Alberta and Saskatchewan that have been sealed (inadequately in many cases) and abandoned and which now pose a hazard for 'communicating' with new drilling for shale gas.

"Frack hits" are not solely a concern for Canada. They have occurred from Texas to northeast British Columbia. Fracking operators often have no knowledge of whether they are drilling too close to other wells where the 'communications' between those wells can present a serious safety and environmental hazard; fracking fluids and the chemicals within them ending up in other wells. Some incidents have been responsible for spilling thousands of wastewater, fracking fluids, oil and gas.

A report published in September by University of Waterloo researchers warned that decommissioned wells "constitute the seepage pathway of greatest risk for hydraulic fracking fluids." Unintended consequences that could interfere with future plans to possibly desalinize water from deep underground aquifers in a world requiring more potable water, represent one nightmare scenario. Oil and gas operations could also compromise a future plan to sequester carbon dioxide deep underground.

"There is no question that old wells are already a significant impediment to C02 storage" and it is time for "some serious thought" about the impacts that the energy industry is leaving and the manner in which it may be "compromising future resources development", cautions Theresa Watson.

The fracking industry's wastewater is also pumped into old decommissioned gas wells. According to a recent study by the University of Victoria's Environment Law Centre, 41-billion litres has been injected into a single well near Fort Nelson, the centre of northern British Columbia's fracking boom. "Yet because of weak laws, we don't really know what toxins were in the wastewater (enough to fill 16,693 Olympic swimming pools at that Fort Nelson well) or how much may have leaked into groundwater or surface water" the University of Victoria researchers worry.

In British Columbia, nine thermal springs in the north of the province and the southern Yukon have burbled to the surface from depths of up to five kilometres, heat, gas and chemicals; not from hydraulic fracturing but representing the depths from which water and chemicals can be dredged naturally. The connotations for that manner of depth migration related to hydraulic fracturing keeps some scientists up at night.

And then, of course, there is an additional by-product of the fracturing process whereby immense pressure is used to power mixtures of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to shatter rock and release gas trapped two to three kilometres underground. The intense pressures on the Earth's mantle can cause earthquakes; 38 of those tremors resulted due to fracking in northeast B.C. between 2009 and 2012.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet