Hydraulic fracturing ( Fracking )

RK Rangi Kemara Public Seen by 39

Colin Davies Wed 23 Jul 2014 12:11PM

What confuses me about the whole anti-fracking stance is why Climate Change keeps getting thrown into the argument.


Rangi Kemara Wed 23 Jul 2014 12:23PM

I guess its more about building capacity for renewable energy sources rather than finite resources. Expanding from natural gas to shale gas would be seen as going backwards rather than forward toward more sustainable sources of energy.

The other issue that comes to mind is the empty promises to reduce carbon emissions while at the same time allowing for the expansion of the harvesting of carbon emitting sources.

The Government’s main policy tool to reduce emissions is an Emissions Trading Scheme that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

( from the first paragraph in the Government's Climate Change website, titled, Doing Our Fair Share - https://www.climatechange.govt.nz/reducing-our-emissions/ )


Nathan Surendran Wed 23 Jul 2014 12:40PM

Comprehensive report of the economics of fracking and other issues:

Book 'Snake Oil' on fracking's false promise serialised (free to read online) here: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-09-18/snake-oil-how-fracking-s-false-promise-of-plenty-imperils-our-future-introduction

Interview with Richard Heinberg on the achilles heel of fracking - economics: http://www.postcarbon.org/video/1998914-special-briefing-attacking-fracking-s-achilles-heel

Interview with Arthur E. Berman by James Howard Kunstler: http://www.postcarbon.org/audio/704641-arthur-e-berman-petroleum-geologist-magical

Resilience.org has lots more to educate yourselves with... https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=site%3Aresilience.org+fracking


Nathan Surendran Wed 23 Jul 2014 12:44PM

Biggest problem with fracking is high drilling costs + steep early declines in production from fracked wells => need for more drilling => tiny profits (most fracking drillers in the USA are borrowing like crazy and hoping for sustained higher oil prices) and wrecked landscapes peppered with well head and roads, etc. Also serious ongoing health issues reported, even here in NZ (Taranaki), near fracking sites due to noise (truck movements, drilling, flaring) and noxious air and water pollution.


Marc Whinery Wed 23 Jul 2014 8:00PM

The problem with fracking is that it's great effort to extract fossil fuels from the ground. If we'd just make renewables more accessible, the need for drilling would decrease, and we could get by without fracking.

Fracking is about profits, not energy. It's "cheaper" to exploit one well with advanced recovery tools than to look for a better well site. We've had warnings of "peak oil" for more than 50 years. If we had front-footed the issue, we wouldn't have any questions about fracking.

That's why I would like to see the IMP focus on what can be done for the future. There are lots of ideas that are new. Some are good. Some are bad. Lets try some (or all) and see what happens. But a politician would prefer to never be wrong, than to try 3 things, be wrong twice, and right once, then run with the one that worked, improving the world over the "opponents" who tried nothing.

You can't have progress or success without risk. So we need a party that's willing and able to try "dumb" things. It's the only way the world will get better.


Tipene (Steve) Butter Sun 3 Aug 2014 9:25PM

During the fracking process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater.
Methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells, There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling as well as cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.


Poll Created Sun 3 Aug 2014 10:27PM

A change in the Quota Management Sytem for Snapper Closed Sun 3 Aug 2014 10:35PM

by Tipene (Steve) Butter Wed 26 Apr 2017 9:30AM

Been moved to a new discussion - arohamai

Would like to see the number of take home snapper increased back up to a reasonable 15 per person per day, to take in to account the many people who are unable to go fishing on a regular basis. In a SNA1 (unsure on other area's quota amounts) area since 1986 commercial fisheries have lost -4% of their quota and the recreational fishermen have lost -77% of their quota. Fair or Unfair, do you agree with a change to up the recreational quotas. Vote agree. If you like how it is at the moment with your maximum 7 snapper per day. Vote disagree.


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 0% 0  
Abstain 0% 0  
Disagree 0% 0  
Block 0% 0  

0 of 42 people have participated (0%)


Tipene (Steve) Butter Sun 3 Aug 2014 10:29PM

Holy Frack - I think I have done something wrong... meant to be in the environment... I think I have totally fracked this up. This is not how it was meant to go Frack frackity frack it. How is the fishing?


Virginia Toy Mon 1 Sep 2014 10:02AM

For some reason this is incorrectly linked to voting about fishing quota management... but I'm going to post my comments on the fracking issue here anyway as I think people may see them here... note that I am a senior lecturer in Geology at Otago Uni, and teach about structural geology which includes teaching how to analyse and predict formation of hydrofractures...

Some parties have very broad policy statements such as:

"Ban fracking and cancel deep sea oil exploration and drilling."

When I read this statement, as a scientist I immediately think it is overly 'reactionist', and that it reflects lack of understanding of what fracking is. Furthermore it displays lack of understanding of what resources we use in modern society, and what constitutes environmentally sound resource extraction and use. I would prefer to see four policy statements along the lines of:

1.Ban hydrofracture formation (fracking) in new coal seam gas projects and carefully assess the environmental impacts of fracking in hydrocarbon extraction.

  1. Ensure rigorous review of potential environmental impacts of new hydrocarbon exploration in New Zealand.

  2. Ensure that New Zealanders use the highest grade and most locally produced hydrocarbons, and that New Zealand sees the economic benefit from extraction of these resources (e.g. we should be refining in NZ).

  3. Facilitate a transition away from a hydrocarbon-based economy, in particular by supporting development of alternative renewable energy resources and working to reduce energy wastage.

I am very happy to provide further explanation for any of these suggestions. I already wrote up the following in explanation of the 'fracking' issue last year when the Dunedin City Council was considering introducing a ban on fracking and thought it worthwhile sending it on to you.

DCC Ban on Fracking Proposal 2013 - Virginia's Comments:

I have been inspired to participate in this debate as I think that the public is particularly poorly informed about the scientific background to this issue, and I think I am qualified to provide some advice that will allow the issue to be considered by yourself and your council members in a measured and reasonable way. I sincerely hope that you will respond by modifiying the ‘mortiorium on fracking’ proposal to more specifically target the potentially harmful activities associated with proposed commercial extraction of coal seam gas , rather than the current general statement, which could restrict a range of environmentally and scientifically beneficial activities, as well as potentially harmful ones.

My background is that I am an avid environmentalist – for example I lead the Blueskin Low Oil Commuting Group (http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/node/2744 and http://www.blueskinpower.co.nz/info.php?page=7), which exists to promote reduction in hydrocarbon consumption in my community. I am also presently employed as a lecturer in Structural Geology at the University of Otago. Since my appointment to that position in 2008, I have taught a core (required) 3rd year geology course called ‘Structural Analysis of Deformed Rocks’. This includes teaching the students how to evaluate if rocks will experience brittle failure by formation of fractures, or slip on existing fractures. One type of fractures that commonly form in rock are known as extension fractures, hydraulic fractures, or hydrofracs. These are exactly the same feature that those campaigning against fracking are talking about. Whether or not they will form depends on the stress state, rock strength, and fluid pressures experienced at depths ranging up to 15 km in standard continental crust. These fractures form in many natural situations (ie without human intervention), but have also been generated during drilling for both hyrocarbons, and during exploration for other resources (e.g. gold) since at least the 1960’s (when the link between fluid injection and microseismic activity was first made in the Rock Mountain Arsenal near Denver), and probably earlier. In other words, they are a common natural and induced phenomenon, not some sort of new technique, and one that we have a pretty good understanding of.

Hydrofractures are induced in rock for a variety of reasons, such as:
1. Hydrocarbons: To increase the permeability of hydrocarbon reservoir rocks, both in shallow reservoirs such as Otago and Southland coal seams, and in deep reservoirs such as sandy layers encountered at depths of a few kilometers in hydrocarbon basins like the Taranaki Basin.
2. Geothermal projects: To create a permeable network between sets of vertical boreholes, allowing fluids to circulate at depth, then rise back to the surface. In this way some groups are trying to tap the passive heat resource of the earth to create a renewable energy resource (e.g. http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/special-features/mined-steam-to-power-uwa/story-e6frg19l-1111118702521 ).
3. Scientific investigations: By creating small hyrdofractures within boreholes, we are able to measure the orientations and magnitudes of stresses in the earth; these play a major role in earthquake processes and we need many such measurements if we are to understand why earthquakes occur, and why. Hydrofracturing is the best method we have to make such measurements.
4. Carbon sequestration: A number of groups, mostly in the USA and Europe (e.g. Universität Utrecht - http://www.uu.nl/faculty/geosciences/EN/research/institutesandgroups/researchgroups /experimentalrockdeformation/research/Pages/co2storage.aspx) have been trying to determine if it is possible to remove some CO2 from the atmosphere by pumping the gas under high pressure into existing reservoirs at depth. However, a recent commission of enquiry in the USA (http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=2c908340-a9bb-40b4-bf7f-8308b272893d) concluded that the amount of CO2 able to be absorbed in this way may be too small to make it worthwhile worldwide.

To create a hydrofracture, one needs to increase the fluid pressure at depth until it is greater than the tectonic stress plus the tensile strength of the rock – in a way the fluid is forcing the rock apart. Hydrofractures generally form as arrays of cracks with similar orientations (perpendicular to the smallest compressive tectonic stress in the earth). These arrays will mostly either be vertical, in which case they can prompt connectivity between shallow groundwater and hydrocarbon reservoirs, or horizontal, in which case they will be confined to the depth at which they were generated. I agree the former case is likely to be problematic (since it could cause connectivity in shallow groundwater reservoirs), and also agree that we need to do a lot more thorough scientific assessments of the potential environmental impacts before allowing the proposed coal seam gas mining in NZ to employ this technique. However, the formation of fracture networks at multiple kilometers depth (as in Taranaki hydrocarbon basins) will generally not have impacts on shallow groundwater resources, and properly oriented fracture networks may be useful in exploiting renewable energy, and in allowing maximum amounts of hydrocarbons to be extracted from existing reservoirs so that we don’t need to exploit poorer hydrocarbon resources (e.g. coal seam gas) to feed our energy-hungry society as soon. Furthermore, I firmly believe that the use of the technique for stress measurements for scientific purposes should not be restricted.

Nevertheless, we do need to be cautious. In most cases, when a fracture forms in the earth, some form of seismic waves are generated – in other words an earthquake occurs. This is the least well-understood aspect of hydrofracture formation. Reassuringly, we mostly know enough to calculate whether or not such fractures will be generated, and historically the events generated by injecting fluids into boreholes are too small to feel. My gut feeling (although I cannot guarantee this) is that induced seismic activity is not a concern in proposed coal seam gas mining in the Otago and Southland regions, since the seams of interest are only at depths of <500m (Kaitangata) or <800m (Ohai). Most earthquakes start much deeper in the crust (5-10km); events that might start at such shallow depths should not have enough initial stress imbalance to propagate deeper, and should therefore only ever be of very small magnitude (unable to be felt by humans).

I am happy to provide examples that I teach to my students (these are mostly about the adverse impacts of the technique) in more details to a group of councilors at any stage if you feel and audio-visual explanation would have more meaning to them. Similarly I am happy to try to explain more about the negative and positive applications of the technique of hydrofracturing if there is interest.

To conclude, I support the need for a more thorough assessment of the use of fracking in coal seam gas exploration, but I would not like to see a bulk moratorium on all applications of hydrofracturing be imposed within New Zealand as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the proposal to apply it in this way. I hope the council will consider modifying their statement about fracking, so that they only support a call for ‘a moratorium on approval of the process of hydrofracture formation in new coal seam gas projects’, rather than a bulk ‘moratorium on fracking’.