Category Archives: earthquakes

My reasons for supporting fracking as the best but not perfect energy source

I wrote this for the newsletter for retired Anglican Clergy as I was requested to do so. It was written two years ago. I attempted to be conciliatory but the next newsletter had a rant of a response from some retired canon, who decided that I was a climate change denier and generally not concerned by the environment. He was clearly blessed with great pastoral gifts – NOT! A nice chappie!

It is two years out of date but the arguments are the same!!

To Frack or not to Frack; that is the question.

On April Fool’s Day 2011 I sent off proofs for a chapter on Evangelicals and Climate Change, where I was critical of American Climate Change deniers. I never noticed the earthquake caused by fracking at Preese Hall ten miles away. After that I began to hear about fracking and was negative initially, but did nothing until a party political leaflet came through the door (not UKIP!). I liked what I read;-improved cycling facilities, recycling, environmental improvements, etc, but the last paragraph made me stamp my feet causing a Magnitude 0.75 quake! The Preese Hall quake was big and dangerous! As a geologist I knew a Mag 2.3 was trivial. When I worked in a Ugandan Copper mine, quakes 1000 times more powerful were common. The most memorable was at an Ascension Day service causing the organist to miss a note! This election leaflet goaded me into action, or rather delayed action as I had limited time until I retired in 2013. And so I began to investigate.
The usual arguments cited are;
• flaming taps due to methane in water,
• toxic chemicals in fracking fluid
• quakes, i.e. minor seismicity.
• poor geology,
• aquifer and water pollution,
• rampant capitalism
• industrialisation of the countryside

and

  • damaging to climate change . (This is used to trump all and to ignore any other challenges on the above points!!

Cuadrilla

The horrors of fracking in Lancashire from Talkfracking
The University of Google directed me to anti-fracking sites, but I wanted something more reliable. As a geologist, I started with the British Geological Survey, and then the United States Geological Survey. Fracking cropped up on the Affiliation of Christian Geologists and so I contacted friends there, along with more friends in the USGS. It soon became apparent that the earthquake concern was very rare, and low risk, and where larger quakes occurred (Mag3 – 5), these were not due to fracking but wastewater injection. These had occurred since the early 80s, i.e. two decades before (the present style of) fracking started and mainly involved waste water from traditional oil production. That is still the case today. (One friend, who in 1991 wrote the earliest papers on these, took me up a couple of 14,000ft mountains in Colorado and I took him up Ingleborough!) Fairly soon, I realised that problems were caused by bad practice rather than the fracking process itself.
After that I left my geological comfort zone and looked at the other issues. I had a choice of three major sources;
• The plethora of publications by anti-frackers, and ‘eco’ organisations.
• technical material from bodies like the BGS, EA, PHE, HSE, scientific bodies and independent academics
• publications from gas operators.
I focussed on the second group. It took time to grasp the technicalities of fracking. I quickly realised that there was little scientific credibility to the antifrack publications. I used the antifrack material to guide what I should look for and ignored material from firms like Cuadrilla. Delving into all this was frustrating and annoying as I became more and more appalled at the inaccuracies of those opposing fracking, including those in the churches.
The straw which broke the camel’s back was my attending a meeting of Frack Off near Garstang in August 2013. I realised then that this meeting promoted ideologically motivated duplicity and scaremongering. More of that later.
I found dealing with anti-fracking rather like dealing with Creationism, which I have dealt with since 1971 after a visit to Schaeffer’s L’Abri in Switzerland – when I thought I was about to join Servetus in Geneva. At the risk of offending Creationists, their arguments are always fallacious, if not dishonest. Creationist claims on the inaccuracy of radiometric age-dating and other scientific questions were poor science. After many years of checking them out, I have never found any which are valid. It is the same with arguments against fracking, which either universalise from examples of bad practice as with pollution of water supplies in Wyoming, exaggerate, or misquote the evidence..
As a result I was forced to re-assess my long-held views on the environment, not that for a moment I even considered rejecting Care of Creation or environmentalism. For 50 years this has itself in appreciation of the natural world, wildlife gardening, economy of energy use and insulation etc. Not to mention my bike as my preferred means of transport, or driving economically. (I try to get 50mpg out of a Corolla which should only do 44!) I had convinced myself of the Peak Oil argument in 1971, not knowing King Hubbert presented it two decades earlier. Peak Oil came to the fore after 2000 when it seemed that fossil fuels would soon run out. I presumed society would be forced to adopt renewables. Shale gas and oil has changed that and almost certainly fossil fuels will NOT run out before 2100. Rather than adjusting to an imposed fossil-free world in a few decades, the limitless (almost) supply forces choices in relation to the environment. Not being a Global Warming Denier, that means a wise use of fossil fuels. Here for many reasons, gas (increasingly fracked) along with every other source of energy except coal is the best option for both the planet and people and here I concur with the IPCC and what actually came out of Paris in 2015!
I began my journey in 2011 rather sceptical of fracking. It was a steep learning curve forcing me to think more about energy and the environment. I came to the conclusion that fracking was the best, or least bad, option and very necessary for Britain. That put me in agreement with the “best environment minister ever” John Gummer aka Lord Deben, but meant that I went against most green Christians. As I considered the whole fracking debate issue to be important, I began to put my head above the parapet. That was impossible to avoid after Cuadrilla applied for two exploration wells 10 miles from my home in February 2014. Now that changed everything. For two years it has dominated many aspects of life in Lancashire.
In February 2014 I went to Cuadrilla’s open meeting at Elswick and was greeted by anti-frackers at the door. Many had arrived in gas-guzzlers! Inside were various stands and many staff from Cuadrilla and Arup. I did not say I had been an exploration geologist but simply asked questions. They gave very reasonable answers and did not try to blind me with science. I went away confident that they were careful operators. A few weeks later I went to a meeting at Inskip of RAFF (Residents against Fracking Fylde). It was very different as the speakers simply peddled the anti-fracking line. During question time I raised questions about a speaker’s geological understanding pointing out it was contrary to BGS reports. I was surprised that she was supported by a Friends of the Earth worker, as I had always had a high regard for FoE. I became aware of hostility to those who did not support the anti-fracking line. About that time lots of anti-fracking signs appeared in the various villages.
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One of many signs near the Preston New road site near Blackpool

 

 

this is fracking

The nightmare opponents of fracking have, but forget that this is not fracking with long laterals but close vertical drills.

 

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Welcome toRoseacre! After this appeared houses were difficult to sell
I took copies of the RAFF leaflet Shale Gas; the Facts, which I found to be grossly inaccurate. I was put in touch with Ken, who shortly had complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about a leaflet distributed by Frack Free Somerset. Before the ASA made a judgment FFS withdrew the leaflet! Ken and I put in a complaint to the ASA against RAFF https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/complaint-to-asa-against-raff-residents-action-on-fracking-fylde-for-gross-errors/ . RAFF tried to answer our complaints but shortly before a judgment was due they withdrew the leaflet. We did the same for Frack Free Ryedale who in Feb 2016 withdrew their leaflet. We await the result over a complaint about Friends of the Earth’s leaflet appealing for donations to fund their work in Lancashire. Some may have seen some of the press coverage of FoE in February stemming from Cuadrilla’s complaints to the Charity Commission https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/how-fiendish-is-friends-of-the-earth/ . At present I am trying to work out what FoE have done in Lancs over the last few years in preparation for a paper to be given at a geological conference. It is clear they worked on local villages and fuelled the local opposition. They also provided training in public speaking in preparation for the June hearings. However those speaking simply repeated the pseudoscientific party line of the antis. My own involvement convinced me that much of the opposition in Lancashire had been fired up by groups like FoE and Greenpeace.

 

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The substance of the Friends of the Earth leaflet
I also became concerned at the violence, intimidation, and law-breaking from some anti-frack supporters, some of which I observed.
Last autumn, we went on holiday to the USA and as we went to Philadelphia we spent a day going around a fracking area. We were put in touch with the CEO of a local company, who took us on a tour of various wells in hilly woodland. It was more attractive than most forestry commission areas. From the valley the only visual impact was a gas pipeline.

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Trout Run, nr Williamsport, PA. gas pad at top of hill. Forest cleared for gasline

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The “flat hill” is a gaspad with 6 wells. Houseowner happy to have it there

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Well being drilled 2 mls from previous photo
We were sent on a tour on empty roads. I visited one pad and spoke to a couple whose house was only yards from another pad, and they were quite happy with it all.

I spoke to people in the motel, restaurant and shops. One or two had some reservations but most valued the fracking. This was in Bradford county a supposedly grim area for fracking.
My intention from the beginning was to consider “all sides”, and that meant talking to green groups, industry and “official” bodies and academic institutions. One major problem was that many green groups, whether in the flesh, or online, simply wanted no questioning or dealings with anyone who questioned them. I was more fortunate with the other two categories. Academics in the UK and USA sent me technical papers on request, which were often behind a pay-wall. I have had personal dealings with several and have been on geological fieldtrips with others, as I know the Forest of Bowland well. (some of my blogs on the geology of the Bowland Shales have been used by university geologists!) I have got to know staff from Cuadrilla, and they have also allowed me on-site. I have made useful contacts with many connected with the shale gas industry

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Three Oxford geology profs and D. Phil student looking at Bowland Shales
As can be seen, fracking is both a technical and a social issue and the two are often inter-twined. Often polarisation gets deep and fractious.

So far the CoE has made no official statement on fracking, but many individuals have. Nearly all follow the anti-fracking line and their ‘science’ is poorly evidenced and argued. Most appear to have no technical or scientific knowledge. Doctorates in literature do not qualify one to speak on drilling wells or geology!
This Church Times article https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/6-september/comment/opinion/wanted-a-green-theology-that-probes-fracking is simply emotional, and this discussion paper from the Blackburn Diocese is very inaccurate and biased. The Url http://www.ctlancashire.org.uk/issues/ (go to fracking) gives the paper and my response.

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Cartoon to go with Church Times article. Since removed.
My conclusions of my study are;
• Fracking is as safe as any other industry. The regulations are robust. There is environmental risk (as there is with farming!), but has been greatly exaggerated. There may be accidents and minor environmental spills etc, but the key pollution pathways responsible for many of the US problems have been examined by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This has lead to a raft of regulations.
• Local gas will be better for meeting Climate Change targets, provided there is a concerted effort on renewables, energy efficiency, etc etc. The key climate issue is to eliminate of coal, which may kill 1600 people a year in the UK. LNG imports are worse for the climate than locally fracked gas.
• So often environmentalists polemically present the option of fracking OR renewables rather than both.
• If fracking takes off it benefit employment, especially in Lancs and Yorks.
• It will improve energy security and help the UK’s balance of payments, as North Sea oil did for decades.
However fracking alone is insufficient. Other aspects need tackling, e.g. planting of trees, farming methods, peat restoration, energy conservation, etc.
One of the weaknesses of many Greens today is to see everything through a lens of Climate Change, and to see fracking as the biggest evil of all. In fact, Green campaigners and architects of the Climate Change Act, the late Stephen Tindale, and Baroness Briony Worthington see shale gas as the way forward, in progressing to a low carbon future. The myopic anti-frack approach has resulted in polarised arguments which help no one.
This fractious polarisation is often fuelled by certain green groups, who cannot, or will not see the big picture. They constantly chant the mantra #keepitintheground. Sadly, a secondary result of my study of fracking is that many Christian Greens make the same mistake.
Over the last five years the clamour against fracking has not been edifying and the church has made no useful contribution. Many commentators have ignored the mass of scientific evidence from so many professional groups, such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, Public Health England, the HSE, the Environment Agency, the British Geological Survey, CIWEM, the European Union, the US Environmental Protection Agency and dozens more. Much of this is on the internet. A good place to start is http://www.refine.org.uk/
They comment on ‘toxic’ chemicals that are not permitted under UK and EU law. They also ignore the hundreds of research papers that confirm the safety of the process. These commentators prefer health studies that are dismissed by health experts, and histrionic reports of pollution incidents that are nothing to do with fracking.
To me it is a matter of great concern whether for the environment, the well-being of people (and planet), and the credibility of the churches. Thus I am one of the many who support a well-regulated fracking for the sake of the environment.
Not all think I am right!

 

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Where have all the earthquakes gone? Kansas and Ohio.

This is a short blog by a geologist in New Mexico about quakes caused by injection in the Kansas /Ohio area

Of course frackquakes are part of the scaremongerers’ armoury in Lancahire

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But this is typical damage from a Mag4 quake in Los Angeles and few caused by even injection are that big.

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In Kansas, seismic activity dropped from 1,967 earthquakes to 668 earthquakes over two years when regulations on oilfield disposal wells were applied. How did they achieve this?

Source: Where have all the earthquakes gone? Kansas.

All the Facts about Fracking – er – um

Ever since I started to find out what fracking entailed  I have been amuzed by the sheer nonsense put out by opponents of fracking. Worst are those who should know better like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace  and Guardian Environment. They have been successful both in raising an awareness and hostility to fracking, but at times their followers/dupees come out with complete tosh.

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Here is a prime example from a female protester at Preston New Road.  On 3rd of Sept this was posted on the FB page Lancaster fights Fracking entitled “All the Facts about fracking”

Here it along with my comments;

You can read it here.

All the facts about fracking

 

I went to Preston New Road on Friday to demonstrate against the fracking company Cuadrilla. The idea was to go and stand outside cuadrilla’s gates to prevent deliveries etc from coming and going,

Is this actually legal? And how would she liked it if someone stopped her clients entering her premise for their “Neuroplastcity”?

this is what demonstraters were doing since March.
I found that the local people I talked to were very upset as the value of their properties had dropped 70% since Cuadrilla’s arrival.

Really! On what evidence? The evidence shows that house prices have not dropped


Fracking has already caused huge amounts of damage and fear in the area with ground tremors.

Yet another! Even tremors of Mag 2.3 don’t cause damage. This is simply falling for scaremongering

In 2011 at Preece Hall there were two significant tremors of Mag 1.5 and 2.3. Few felt them and no one reported any damages, though later some claimed that their property was damaged.

This image is useful. It shows that a Mag2.3 is about the same as a lightning bolt and that tremors that size are very common, with a about half a million every year. Further they are at least a billion times smaller than either the Nepal quake or the 2004 tsunami.

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Fracking does cause seismic activity and many refer to 50 at Preece Hall. all but two were Mag 1 or less and would hardly cause a ripple in a teacup. Despite this many have used these “earthquakes” as a scare-mongering tactic and was used in the Greenpeace “Not for Shale” Campaign.

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That was effective in conning locals and here its influence can be seen with concerns of “huge damage”. There was pretty clearly no damage.


The way the damage is caused is by enormous amounts of water poured a mile down

A profound mis-undrestanding of fracking. The water is pumped in under very high pressure, not poured.

into a pocket of gas,

I am beginning to despair. conventional sources have pockets of gas. Gas in shale is simply found in microscopic interstices in the shale.

This is a terrible misunderstanding. Some gas deposits, as in Holland, are found in underground caverns, but in fracking gas is extracted from shale, where the gas is found in the shale in tiny interstices in the rock. Hence in exploration a rough test is to put a piece of core from the shales into a “fish tank” and the amount of gas is indicated by the number of bubbles. There is simply no pocket of gas, but gas spread throughout the shale

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this forces the gas up, along with all kinds of methanes

The gas is methane and there are no other kinds of methanes. This is so face-palming.

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and other toxics.

Presumably a clumsy reference to the variopus stuff in flow-back

The drilling disturbs the land plates

This is simply hilarious and shows and incredible ignorance of even school-level geography. She is vaguely aware of palates but ain’t got a clue about plate-tectonics and quakes

and causes tremors and disturbances.

More guff

We heard that the government was going to start putting nuclear toxic waste down the drilling hole when the drilling was finished and cover it in! 😳 Terrifying !

If she hadn’t come out with such silly stuff before, I’d say she was lying. This is simply repeating someone else’s blatant lie.

There was about 50 or 60 of us and the same amount of police. People were very amusing , someone called to the police “I hope no one is getting robbed in Blackpool”
I can’t say I wasn’t a bit scared as I’d seen videos on FB the night before of the police being very rough indeed. Saying this, my own experience was that the long term demonstraters , who were there every day, were quite offensive to the police, but I saw why later!

 


We stood in the same spot outside the gates, as was customary , the police arrested one of our group for obstructing the highway.

That is illegal!!

We weren’t on the highway we were where we thought it was legal to stand. It turns out that Lancashire council had redesignated the land, that morning, to become part of the highway. The police are always talking about cooperation , if they had told us the facts, we would have moved , this was a really slimey way to get an arrest.
The police were arrogant , unpleasant and far too authoritarian, there were far too many of them, at one time one police person per demonstrator . Don’t we have a shortage of police ?

Well if you bait the police and continue pushing them to the limit, they may not be friendly.


We noticed an awful lot of support from motorists going past who beeped and waved.
Lancashire council voted against fracking

And a lot who didn’t beep. It was a the planning committee not the whole council

but a conservative minister over ruled this and granted a license !

No, the minister did not over-rule it. Cuadrilla appealed as is their legal right and after much evidence was taken, the minister upheld the advice of the Planning Officer

 

It seems it makes no difference to this government what the public want, they just need to get their hands on more cash and deal more destruction to our environment!

More of the usual mantras!

I am afraid i didn”t find one fact in this article

 

 

 

The author is a lady working in Lancaster and according to her FB page is;

As you read it you will see she makes a lot of statements about fracking and the behaviour of the police at the fracking site near Blackpool.

The post has been shared 40 odd times, including to to RAFF and RAG. If RAFF and RAG shared it , why didn’t they correct its howlers. It makes you wonder!

Here is a complimentary comment for “all the facts about fracking”

  • grace

 

  • RAG liked it too, with one saying “well-written and observed”
  • rAG on Grace

a

Assam Earthquake 15th August 1950

As we mark the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan, we would also remember that the Assamese did not have a good day on the 15th August.

During the night a massive Mag 8.6 earthquake struck the area, with its epicentre just inside Tibet.That makes it far bigger than the Mag 7.8 in Nepal in 2015. However the damage or loss of life, though considerable, were far less as the area was less densely populated.

My own interest is that we were living in Jorhat on the tea plantations of Assam at the time and the quake became part of family history. We lived in a bungalow, which was built on stilts for protection against earthquakes and had about ten servants as was the norm.

So what happened?

The bungalow on stilts began to sway. Wardrobes fell over, but didn’t hit anyone.

The car, an american Studebaker, rolled out off the garage onto the lawn.

My parents took my brother and I to spend the night in the car.

In Jorhat there was much damage, but also poetic justice. There were acute food shortages and grain sellers kept their grain hoping to get higher prices. However the quake collapsed many of the warehouses and then the price dropped. Locals imply went in and took what they wanted.

The other personal detail concerns a friend of my parents, Frank Kingdom Ward, a botanist and plant-collector. He was known to be in the vicinity of the epicentre and was actually sleeping on top of it. nothing was heard of him for three months when he re-appeared. On 16th August he had intended to botanise in a Himalayan valley, but that was partly filled in with landslides. He slowly made his way out and returned to safety.

For further details read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1950_Assam%E2%80%93Tibet_earthquake

Not surprisingly that is the biggest quake I’ve been in. When I was working at Kilembe mines as a geologist in the Ruwenzori Mountains of the Western Rift Valley smaller quakes were common. we often had Mag 3 to 5 quakes and as they did no damage we almost ignored. The most memorable one was during a church service at All Saints Church, Kilembe. Halfway through a hymn a quake struck and the whole church (wooden) shook violently. The organist missed a note and carried on. Nobody mentioned afterwards.

Two years earlier a Mag 6.5 hit the northern Ruwenzori and a dozen were killed, including the son of a vicar Rev Mikairi Nturanke, who I later knew well and went to a harvest service in his church. I preached my first sermon there!

Since then I’ve felt a few quakes in Britain but none more than 5.  the biggest caused a little damage but no injuries.

Living in Lancashire now, we often have unfelt Mag2s and occasionally a bit more but I have never felt any.

This biggest were those of Preece Hall fracking in 2011 being up to Mag 1.5 and Mag 2.3 . They were hardly felt and did no damage , despite dubious claims. The biggest damage was to the minds of certain people who read about them later and wrote creatively about them.

 

Many don’t grasp the Magnitude scale. I am rather simplifying and seismologists might like greater precision, but this gives the picture.

From this you will see that the fracking quakes of Lancashire were no more than lightning bolt, that the Mag 8.6 in Assam  was far greater than the explosion of Mt St Helens and about the same as Krakatoa.

Even the quakes, due to injection into wells,  of Oklahoma which are mostly about 3 to 4 are trivial compare to those of the 2004 tsunami, Nepal 2015 and Assam 1950

 

 

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From the diagram above it is clear that any quake of less than Mag 4 does not cause significant damage.

Below is a map of quakes in 2017 showing that nearly all are confined to the Pacific Ring of Fire or the Alps-Himalaya Tectonic belt