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« Greens back shale | Main | Von Storch on the models again »

Fracking far away - Josh 236

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Another Fract Sheet, again with thanks to James Verdon for his help.

Water contamination is one of the big anti-fracking scare stories but fracking takes place rather a long way away from any water sources, like, about six whole Shards away - that's over a mile.

Note to all eagle eyed readers: the drilled well is actually only eight inches wide, so not drawn to scale here where it is drawn about three feet wide. Sorry about that.

Cartoons by Josh

Update: James Verdon now given his proper name - mea (Josh) culpa!

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Reader Comments (66)

Brilliant. But we're disappointed about the eight inches!

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Possibly more relevant is the height of the well-head rather than the drilling rig because that is what remains as comparable to a turbine.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

It's too small to see the dead birds. The RSPB is really worried about the effect of fracking on birds.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Josh, you actually have the wells first shard scaled about right. The first few hundred meters are double cased in steel set in concrete, to insure no aquifer contamination. The depth depends on the local geology. And that borehole is bigger than 8 inches.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

"Brilliant. But we're disappointed about the eight inches!"

As the actress said to the bishop.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoubting Rich

Actresses are known to be spoilt.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

So why hasn't the Shard got a windmill? They don't make any noise, I understand...

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

That's very good Josh. But you didn't draw the Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and demons released from the deep. It's just drilling for the gas we all use and need. The Anti's have all the best imagery.... Can't you show the biblical scale starving and freezing millions in poverty in Britain if we don't get cheap energy security?

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

Cuadrilla should announce that they plan to use wind powered drill rigs and request a feed in tariff.

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

How many of us in the UK depend upon aquiferous water? Do we not get most of ours from rain/river fed reservoirs?

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

Bravo, Bruce: "Wind powered drill rigs"

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:08 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Ahhh, I can see why the Crusties are demonstrating now.

Great series Josh! There really should be a whip around to get these printed up as A2 posters and sent to out schools... it's far cheaper than most people probably think.

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

david Chappel:


Possibly more relevant is the height of the well-head rather than the drilling rig because that is what remains as comparable to a turbine.

Hardly. A wellhead will be between 2 and 3 meters high. Quite often, they are also put into an underground pit, for aesthetic or safety reasons. Or inside a small building.

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

Nicely done, but ...

Where's "Drillbit Dana" in this photo? Though I realize it is hard to draw a pink scooter to scale, I think he's worth a pixel.

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Watts

Oh dear.

The Beeb's ever-helpful page 'explaining' fracking has a similar diagram. Thoughtfully, they explain theirs is "Not to scale".

Thanks Josh for that most imprtant of all facts.

Aug 23, 2013 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

worth a pixel

You're too generous Anthony.

Aug 23, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Perhaps a little vintage 1711 Alexander
Pope in the pipe?

"For shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
But more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!"

Aug 23, 2013 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

Henry Galt,
The sources of drinking water vary across the country depending on the local geology, rivers, etc..
Thames Water, for example, gets about 1/3 from boreholes and 2/3 from surface sources (if memory serves). For Southern Water the proportions are reversed.
Ground water sources are prized because the water requires very little treatment - usually.

Aug 23, 2013 at 5:47 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Henry Galt - Wessex Water takes a huge quantity from the aquifer underneath Wiltshire - good water requiring less treatment than water from rivers or reservoirs. Helps keep their costs down/profits up.

Aug 23, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

It might require a larger drawing, but perhaps you could add a Silurian or two?
According to this, at a depth of 21 km. So there's a good-sized safety margin before we disturb any alien underground civilization. I'm sure that some folk are concerned about that. Precautionary principle and all that.

Aug 23, 2013 at 7:01 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

the drilled well is actually only eight inches wide,

Is this a man-measured 8" or a female-measured 8" ?

Aug 23, 2013 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Thanks mikeh and Grumpy. Just goes to prove I shouldn't make guesses ;0

I would have guessed 1% from aquifers. Doh!

Aug 23, 2013 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

I do NOT understand how aquifers can be contaminated.. There are multiple steel sets of casing all grouted into the ground. Water pumped into the ground is abstracted. If water pumped into the shale escaped upwards, the the gas would be released. Abstracted water does not appear to contain chemicals which are difficult to remove.

Aug 23, 2013 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

"I do NOT understand how aquifers can be contaminated.. There are multiple steel sets of casing all grouted into the ground."


This is how. The first earthquake at Cuadrilla's Preese Hall pad deformed the well casing.

"The events leading to the rebuke began when casing of a well drilled at the Preese Hall site was damaged by an earthquake caused by its drilling on 1 April 2011. The deformation in the well was discovered in routine investigations a few days later. Deformation of well casings can be serious, causing gas or fracking fluids – water and chemicals – to leak."

Aug 23, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

@ Les Johnson 4.26pm

That the well-head is so small is precisely the point I was making; the rig will only be on-site for a couple of months whereas the turbine and the well-head are permanent fixtures.

Aug 23, 2013 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

EM, no it's not how. Interesting how you chose to quote very selectively from the Guardian article.

You must have missed this bit:

The company said: "Cuadrilla was never required to report this issue as the casing deformation caused no actual or potential loss of well integrity and was neither a safety nor an environmental incident. No remedial action was needed to repair the well.

Even the Guardian had to admit that no contamination took place - so the system worked as designed.

I somehow guessed that would be the case, because when a warmist says that something "could" or "might" happen, you can bet that it never actually has.

Aug 23, 2013 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

According to the USGS

"Though fracking does cause tiny tremors, the USGS scientists found no links between the process of fracking itself and the larger earthquakes"

According to Energy from Shale

"An incredibly small amount of seismic activity accompanies the hydraulic fracturing process; however the low level of seismicity has resulted in no cases of injury or property damage in over one million instances."

According to the article you linked Entropic Man,

"No remedial action was needed to repair the well." - Cuadrilla

"The HSE said there had been no breach of regulations by Cuadrilla."

"In this case the integrity of the well was not compromised and there were no leaks or danger of contamination." - which immediately followed your quote selection EM

And the article also use the term "small tremor" to describe the "earthquake"

So, not one historical instance of any contamination due to fracking; the tremors are so small they can't even be felt on the surface, and so on.

Doesn't sound like a practice that must be halted to me. If anyone has evidence that harm has once been proven due to this fracking, then I would like to be provided with a link to it.

Aug 23, 2013 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered Commentertomdesabla

For the edification of EM, though I doubt that he would understand, wells have multiple, typically three or four) strings of casing. They are stage drilled. Other than the inner or production casing, none of the others have a requirement for pressure integrity once the next stage is drilled. The annular void between the casings is set by spring loaded spacers and filled with cement.
If one wants to get flows from the gas or oil filled inner casing into the ground water aquifers, one needs to penetrate maybe 3 layers of 5/8" high tensile steel that are spaced within a foot of good cement. Nowadays, the threads used to join the casings are stronger than the casing so that is a potential source of failure gone.The analogy to a safe is appropriate. Also, depending on the depths and relative pressures involved, the flow can be from the aquifer into the well.
Failure of the anchor and surface casings does occur, but mainly on geothermal wells where there is both significant ground subsidence and thermal growth involved. Almost all wells that have blown out have been during the drilling operations, rather than after completion. This is often because of poor cementing operations or not having enough stages, especially in areas of unknown geology. And fraccing, which isn't involved with the protester's well, is an after completion operation.

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

I wonder if the rabid eco-loons ever wonder about the effect on aquifers of coal mining, the energy resource that made Britain Great. The deepest coal mine in the UK (North Selby - now closed, of course) was just over 1000 m deep. They used to extract great panels of coal, around 2.5 m thick, and let the strata above (including two major aquifers) collapse, giving rise to subsidence at ground level of up to 0.99 m.
The adverse effect on the quality of drinking water? Negligible.
Did coal mine Methane contaminate the drinking water? Of course not.
Certainly there were contamination issues from old abandoned shallow mines. But the value to Society of efficient and affordable energy hugely exceeded these minor problems.
Contamination from shale gas?
Don't be daft.

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered Commentermartin brumby

I have repeatedly been told here and elsewhere that there is no possibility that the well casing can exchange fluids with an aquifer.

Now Chris M tells me

"Also, depending on the depths and relative pressures involved, the flow can be from the aquifer into the well."

"Failure of the anchor and surface casings does occur, but mainly on geothermal wells where there is both significant ground subsidence and thermal growth involved. Almost all wells that have blown out have been during the drilling operations, rather than after completion. This is often because of poor cementing operations or not having enough stages, especially in areas of unknown geology."

Note the qualifiers. "depending on the depths and relative pressures involved..." , "mainly on geothermal wells...", "Almost all wells that have blown out..."

Is this supposed to be reassuring?

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

EM - suggest you do a basic course in Geology and Drilling Engineering before you embarrass yourself any further. All of the statements you quote are quite reassuring if you have just a smidgen of common sense (and of course a little knowledge)................

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon

When you have absolutely no intention of being reassured?

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered Commentermartin brumby

We really have become a nation of wimps. When the potential for shale gas was recognised in the US in a serious way back in the 80's, their Dept of Energy knew that explosives could stimulate well productivity. They got fully behind it and approved trials. No messing. In this instance they wanted to try a more powerful new fraccing explosive developed by DuPont called EL836:-

'Its use in well stimulation is in a fully-coupled mode (i.e., explosive completely
fills the wellbore) intended to provide maximum energy availability. A full
scale shot of 60,000 pounds of EL836 in a hole reamed to 15 inches in diameter
has been conducted (8). DuPont is presently engaged in a 13-well test series in
Devonian shale in Putnam County, WV at depths of 4,000-5,000 ft. Charge lengths
of about 600 ft. will be used to compare five wells loaded with cartridged dynamite,
(5 inch dia, 6,000 lb), five 6.25 inch open holes with EL836 (12,000 lb)
and three holes underreamed to 12 inch diameter with EL836 (about 40,000 lb).'

Don't think they had any protestors camping around the wellhead when that lot went off.

But seriously, for a nation which gave birth to the industrial revolution, and blessed with a mature domestic oil and gas industry as well, our lack of skill and lack of attention to the new (for us) shale gas revolution is shameful.

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:47 PM | Registered CommenterPharos


Damn it I hate to be a party pooper but there is a blooper in your brilliant drawing ^.^

Where you have written up to "600 feet", you need to write "in excess of 6000 feet" (at least with respect to the Bowland Shale).
600 feet relates to the thickest USA shale gas deposit, ours are better hehe.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM | Registered CommenterDung


Think its the max limit of radius out from the wellbore for the induced fractures.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:14 PM | Registered CommenterPharos


I think Don summed you up correctly.
The reasons I put qualifiers in is because I do not know the history of every blowout so I admit my uncertainties. What I do know is there has never been a proven case of groundwater contamination from a fraccing.
Of course, if you know of one, please enlighten us with your vast knowledge.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM


Aug 23, 2013 at 11:43 PM | Registered CommenterDung

ChrisM, Don, martin brumby

Consider me a test case.

Those with an interest in shale gas exploitation have been keen to reassure the public that hydraulic fracturing is non-polluting and generally a safe activity to find in their vicinity.

Those opposing the process have emphasised the problems.

Though some here may laugh at the idea, I trained as a scientist. This included the idea that the evidence, not the preconception, is the key. By the standards of the "man on the Clapham omnibus" I am probably more willing to be reassured by proper evidence than most.

I regard shale gas drilling as uneconomic, rather than disastrous, but my H&S training in a blood bank some years back included the interesting stsatistic that any complex, but routine task goes wrong about 1% of the time. This was why blood test results were always crosschecked by another technician.

I see no reason to expect better performance from the drilling industry ( For example, your mention of concreting well casings brought Deepwater Horizon to mind). A 1% failure rate implies a problem with one well in 100. If 20 wells are drilled per pad, that would lead to contamination from one pad in five.

In this instance, the onus of proof is on the drillers and their supporters. You should not be asking me to falsify the safety case. At planning inquiries, in the media and on the ground you will need to show that your safety case is valid. Can you show proper statistics for the incidence of problems in US shale gas plays; not just the propoganda for or against, but proper data?

Aug 24, 2013 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

As an example of a population that will take a lot of convincing, take Tambora's application to do exploratory drilling for shale gas in Fermanagh.

They have been ready to go for the last two years, but have failed to convince either the locals or the Northern Ireland Assembly that it will be safe.

The main income for the county depends on a large unpolluted lake used for fishing and boating. Any pollution incident would seriously impact the local economy.

How would you convince a population that regards Tambora as a significant threat to their local economy and prefers not to take the risk? That is the level of evidence you need.

Aug 24, 2013 at 12:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man


You really have no idea what you are talking about do you. Scientists aren't engineers - thank God. Precautionary principle is really do nothing. And you know that it is impossible to prove the negative. Society cannot exist without risk. The critical factor is to minimise the risk and maximise the benefits. Routine tasks, even complex ones, fail orders of magnitude less than you imply. In fact the more complex it is, the more likely people are to get it right. Ask anyone in a potentially dangerous environment like a power station.

H&S in blood bank does not translate to drilling experience. Drilling is not fraccing. In fact, most wells are nowadays completed with casing cemented right to the bottom of the hole. They then pull the rig off (complete the well). Next is a wireline or CTU to place explosive charges so they can perforate the casing in the areas of interest. Then they get the big pumps in and pump the water in to fracture and then push the sand in to hold open the shale fractures.

As I challenged you earlier, if you know of a shale gas well that has fracced into an aquifer, tell us. They have done thousands all over the world, to a lot lower standards than nowadays, so there should be a failure if we take your line. Just because, people don't get permission, doesn't mean it is dangerous. More often than not, it is because of people like you spread fear without knowledge.

Aug 24, 2013 at 2:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

Absolutely right.
EM and all the other Alarmophiles haven't a clue about risk (or pretend not to, when it suits them)
Just look at all the disasterous consequences of Evil Carbon which 'might' or 'could' happen (numberswatch) if you pay enough 'scientists' big grant money to dream up scary scenarios.
All nonsense, or at most a tiny germ of possibility surrounded by a great elephant of hyperbole and scaremongering.
They pretend that Earth is some pathetic, fragile construct suspended by a gossamer thread, which those naughty wealth-creators and a supine public threaten at every moment to snap.
Better to just hold hands and sing Kumbaya, sitting in the dark in the back of the cave.
Not, of course, that that is the way they behave when they are not waving their shrouds in public.

Aug 24, 2013 at 4:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermartin brumby

Let's remember that the coal industry, for much of the period since the industrial revolution, killed more than a thousand miners a year. Even after nationalisation in 1947, it was some time before deaths dropped to the tens and then the units per year. In China, they have succeeded a bit faster. Estimated by H&S experts at 30,000 per year twenty years ago, they are probably now in the low thousands and will, no doubt, drop rapidly to a few hundred, tben to tens (for a vast industry). Every one of those deaths was, of course, a tragedy for someone.
How many die today from cooking on dung fires? But, we mustn't let those Africans have cheap and reliable energy, must we?
How many people have died from dodgy blood transfusions? Probably more than from nuclear power, even including the 40 odd the UN estimated from Chernobyl.
What was the tragedy at Deep Water Horizon? The eleven poor sods who went up with the rig, not that pathetic pelican the BBC always shows us.
Nothing is without risk. There will always be the unforeseen. (Like nuclear plant controllers playing vodka fuelled games.)
But what about the risks of huge offshore wind arrays and the risk to tbe economy of paying Billions for technology we KNOW doesn't work? That's good, apparently.
But because some know-nothing thinks shale gas will be uneconomic (whilst doing his utmost to make it uneconomic), we should stop drilling?

Aug 24, 2013 at 4:50 AM | Unregistered Commentermartin brumby

Aug 23, 2013 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Whod a thunk it, EM reads comics (gruaniad).
EM note the direction of the possible low risk breakdown flow. Aquifer to WELL. got it ?

Aug 24, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Though some here may laugh at the idea, I trained as a scientist

Absulutely right. Biology? enviroment? if it has science in the title it isn't science.

Aug 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

@ EM 12:09

".... the interesting stsatistic that any complex, but routine task goes wrong about 1% of the time. "

In which case, flights would be banned.

Your comments really are absurd.

Aug 24, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Is the Shard the new universal measure of height, replacing Big Ben and Nelson's column?

Just so I can get the scale, how many Double-decker buses make one Shard?

Aug 24, 2013 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

EM, 2.5 million wells have been fracked worldwide.

Can you list the 1% you said had problems? That would be 25,000.

Surely the greenies would have list.

Aug 24, 2013 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

"EM note the direction of the possible low risk breakdown flow. Aquifer to WELL. got it ?"

Stephen Richards

That there is a flow at all indicates that there is a hole in the well casing. All it needs is a reversal of the pressure gradient, perhaps due to a drop in the aquifer level, for fluid to flow from well to aquifer.

Aug 25, 2013 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Joe public

Flying is, at root, a high risk activity. That it reaches the safety levels you experience is due to one of the most rigorously enforced safety regimes on the planet.

One part is the normal two-crew operation. One is the handling pilot, responsible for the actual flying. The second is the monitoring pilot. His primary task is to spot when the handling pilot is making a mistake and point it out, so that "You're a bit low, mate" does not become an accident. Though the senior pilot is usually the Captain, the two roles alternate from one flight to the next.

When this goes wrong crashes can result. A Pakistani Airbus crashed on landing because the Captain, as handling pilot, came in too low and fast. Because of their culture, the monitoring pilot was reluctant to point out his captain's error. Both survived the crash but stayed aboard and died in the fire rather than face the shame of their failure. It was all recorded on the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.


I would be much happier to read a description of the shale gas driller's safety assurance routine, rather than bland assurances.

On the subject of monitoring. I would hope that the industry monitors its own activities and keeps records for the regulators. Is that sort of data available? Should I, a non-expert in the field, be expected to do on-site inspections?

Aug 25, 2013 at 12:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man


I specifically used the word can. That does not mean it does. Even with holes, fluid doesn't necessarily flow if the formation is impermeable (like shale without fraccing is) It was used to illustrate that the fluid does not necessarily come out, even if there is full communication.

As so many of us have tried to get into your skull, without success, there is no record of contamination of an aquifer from fraccing. This isn't oil publicity. It is the US environmental authorities. Of course, we are still waiting on your example of a failure. As the saying goes, either put up or shut up.

Aug 25, 2013 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

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