Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oil, gas and fracking Lincolnshire, part 2

Probably best to read the previous post first (if you haven’t already).

A great deal of what is being said and written about the issues surrounding fracking, dwell on the local issues of earthquakes, pollution of groundwater, lorry movements,  settlement ponds, and other environmental problems that are essentially local in character.  And that is just how the industry wants the issue framed.  Indeed that’s just how the industry itself frames it.  This is a screenshot of the centre of the front page of Cuadrilla’s website:

The one KEY ISSUE that the industry does not want us talking about is the one thing that effects all of us, living and yet unborn, anywhere on the planet and in everybody’s backyard.  Greenhouse gas.
It’s not rocket science.  Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius had worked it out in the 19th century.  Add carbon dioxide or methane to the atmosphere and the temperature of the planet will rise. The rest is detail.
This is the big one that the oil industry has no answer to.  By concentrating on local issues of “Water, Seismicity, Jobs,Traffic and Visual impact” they divert attention towards the issues that they can, with varying degrees of success, argue about.
They cannot argue about the fact that extracting gas from shale will add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.  So they want us to keep talking about the local issues.

Let’s not fall for it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oil, gas and fracking Lincolnshire, part 1

A quick geology reminder.  (Skip the first part of this post if you don't need reminding.)
Oil and gas come from dead stuff that dropped to the bottom of a murky sea and got buried, deep, long ago.
To get the hydrocarbons (that's oil and gas) you need a source rock, a reservoir rock and a cap rock.
The source rock was the mud the dead stuff fell into.  It tends to form thick layers of mudstones, shales and clays, sometime thousands of feet thick.  It's here that the organic material breaks down and is converted into liquid oils and gas.  From the source rock it can, very slowly, migrate to:-
The reservoir rock is a porous rock, usually a sandstone or limestone, in which the hydrocarbons can accumulate so long as their escape is prevented by:-
The cap rock is an impermeable rock such as clay or salt that traps fluid hydrocarbons below it, trapping them until someone drills a hole through it to let it out.
'Conventional' oil and gas are thus obtained from the reservoir rock.  You 'just' drill a hole through the cap, into the reservoir and watch the oil gush out. (It's a bit more complicated than that but that'll do for now.)
Now that we are at or past 'peak oil', the time when conventional oil production rate is at its maximum, the price has become high enough, at over $100 per barrel, to make it worth while considering obtaining oil and gas by 'unconventional' means.  That means 'fracking' or fracturing the source rock so that it becomes a bit more permeable and releases the gas within.
Remember that every oil or gas reservoir must have (or at least must have had) a source somewhere below it. If there's a reservoir, there's probably shale with gas in it some way below.  Remember that - it's important.


Fracking has hit the news recently, what with the fear of it reaching Balcombe in Sussex.  Cuadrilla have planning permission to drill an exploratory hole in their search for, they say, conventional oil.  Some folk think they might try fracking later on.  They say they want to get at the oil in reservoir rocks in the Upper Jurassic.  But, as we remember, where there's a reservoir there's a source below, and the big source is lower down in the Lias.  To get gas from down under it will need fracking.  Maybe that's the long term goal of Cuadrilla, after all, fracking is what they do.

A bit further north, in Surrey, Europa Oil and Egdon Resources have just won a case in the High Court overturning a decision by the Planning Inspector to uphold a decision by Surrey County Council to refuse planning consent for an exploratory well to be drilled in the Holmwood Prospect.  Again, the stated plan is to drill for conventional oil with no mention of fracking the underlying source shales.

Also last week, in Leicestershire, Egdon Resources was granted planning permission to drill for oil in the Carboniferous rocks. There's no mention of fracking; they say they intend to exploit conventional oil in a fairly shallow well. But this area, in the Widmerpool Trough, is underlain be about 2500 metres of shale source rock that is judged by the British Geological Survey to be likely to contain gas. It's part of the same Bowland-Hodder Formation in which fracking is proposed in Lancashire. Last week's planning decision might be regarded as a first step, a Trojan horse, to fracking in Leicestershire.

It's a similar story in Lincolnshire where Egdon (again), along with Union Jack Oil, are hoping to drill at Biscathorpe.  They say they are going for the conventional oil in a fairly shallow well.  And so they may well be.  But further down there is 2000, perhaps even 3000 metres of Bowland-Hodder shale in the Gainsborough Trough, a deep basin of sedimentation.  The potential for fracking to obtain gas is all too obvious.

Further east, just east of Louth, there's a small oil field at Keddington.  It has been producing, on and off, a little oil and gas for many years and plans are afoot for further drilling to obtain more of this conventional oil. Egdon Resources operate this site too.  And of course there's shale below.  Further east still, we have an area again licensed to Egdon around North Somercotes. This is a little different as there does not seem to be much conventionally trapped hydrocarbon, though the area is probably the source for the gas that has already been extracted from the Saltfleetby/Skidbrooke field.  Fracking may be the only option to exploit the North Somercotes Prospect.

And then there's a whole lot more potential in the Humber Basin along the coast and just off shore around the mouth of the Humber.

Here's an authoritative and up to date map of oil and gas license areas:

This photo, taken on 28th July 2013 at Balcombe, West Sussex, shows what happens when preparations for an exploratory well are made.  This is before any fracking is considered.

Photo credit: http://frack-off.org.uk/

Sunday, July 21, 2013

1914 - 2014 Red Poppy - White Poppy

I recently received this e-mail:

Dear Sir / Madam
2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
I have contacted you to invite you to take part in the commemoration of the start of the War, and at the same time remembering the tremendous loss of life, including many local people, who perished as a result of it. The Government are organising a number of events to mark the start of the conflict but I was hoping that the residents of East Lindsey could unite in our own tribute.
The idea for this came from my 14 year old niece, Molly, whilst we were discussing the war and the fact that her Great Great Grandfather was killed in the war, only a month before it finished.
Her idea is that we encourage, through contacting Parish Councils within East Lindsey, to plant pots of red poppies at the entrance to Churches, Village Halls, Local Businesses and even ask that residents take part. With the support of Parish Councils we feel we could almost "turn East Lindsey red". I am contacting all Town and Parish Councils within East Lindsey to ask them to take on this project within their community, by publicising it with local information and maybe even by providing a quantity of poppy seeds for local residents.  I am proud that Molly feels strong enough about her Great Great Grandfather that she wants to be involved in remembering him in this way.
The poppy seeds would need to be planted in the Spring to flower in July and August. The official date the War started was 28th July 1914.  Obviously we chose the red poppy because of its link with remembering the war dead, and thought that this would be a relatively simple and inexpensive way for people to be able to take part.  We are contacting local press, radio and television in the hope that their support will advertise what we are hoping to achieve.  I am sure that everyone has a distant relative who was involved in the First World War, and feel that this would be a good way of showing that they may have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but they will never be forgotten.
Yours Faithfully

It seems to me a splendid idea.  My grandfather, Major W. F. Vernon, played his part in the First World War and, in peacetime, was a keen gardener.  I'm sure he would have approved.  I'm also sure he would have liked it better still if white poppies were to be sown amongst the red, symbolising both our remembrance of past horrors and determination that never again will they be repeated.

Before rushing to rash judgement, a little investigation of the history of the white poppy may be in order. Please read this short piece and perhaps follow some of the links there-from.