Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What is a minifrac?

Rathlin have applied to perform a "mini fall off test" on each of their wells.
This is also known as a minifrac in the industry.  [Halliburton]
So what is it?

It is well worth remembering that the industry loves to conflate/obfuscate and often uses unnecessary technical detail to do this.

Frack Off considers fracking to be shorthand for the entire life cycle, supply chain and process of getting oil and gas out of shale. Exploration will lead to Production unless it is opposed, which inevitably requires horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in tens of thousands of wells across large areas of the UK.

A mini-frack is a loose term for something that includes a DFIT but could be used to describe anything up to full HVHF.
A DFIT is a Diagnostic Fracture Injection Test, it involves the introduction of liquid into the well and pressurisation to the point where fractures are created in the target formation (rock). A DFIT or Mini-Frack will require significant pressure so most of the equipment required for full scale HVHF.
See: http://www.spidr.com/oil-and-gas/DFIT-Testing/page128.html
HVHF is High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing usually involving Slick Water (chemical additives) and Propants (sand to hold the fractures open) and may involve multiple stages (multiple target formations). HVHF is qualified by the use of more than 1 million gallons of fluid.
Cuadrilla are the only company to have performed HVHF in the UK with their six stage HVHF of  a vertical well at Preese Hall in Lancashire (8,399,000 litres = 2,218,781 US gal). The treatment caused seismic activity that deformed a 200 foot section of their well casing and they are abandoning that well.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Thankyou for these excellent comments

Huge thankyou to everyone who commented on the Environment Agency Permit Application by Rathlin Energy for West Newton, which looked very much like fracking.

70 people commented online and more by email, and of the comments that were public I couldn't see a single one in favour.

One of the strongest themes to emerge was that the public had not had enough information and therefore the public consultation could not be effective.  We also don't believe there is enough clarity for the EA to properly regulate.

The consultation for Crawberry Hill remains open until 12th March please comment here, the comments below may help.

3 favourites:

Withernwick Parish Council considered your consultation note at its meeting last week and resolved that I should pass on its views as follows:
1. The Council is not minded to be supportive of the activities of Rathlin because so little information has been pssed to the council about these matters. There has been a lot of bad local press recently and parishioners and the council are worried about the effects on the local population and countryside.
2. There are references to "medium risk radio-activity". What does this mean? How dangerous is that? What safeguards are in place? Where are the Risk Asseswsments?
3. How much disruption will be caused? How much noise? How much night-time activity?
4. When will work start? How long will it last?
5. The Council wants answers to such comments/questions before any work commences.

Phil Wilson CPFA
Parish Clerk

Here's an excellently written one, which I notice is by Professor Fiddlessticks.

The UK has signed up to the Climate Change Act 2008 which commits us to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, based on a 1990 baseline. This is a legal obligation, and in my opinion, a moral one, if future generations are going to be able to cope with the climate chaos which will already happen because of the current CO2 levels, which have risen from about 280ppm in pre-industrial times to 400ppm today. The accepted 'safe' level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350ppm, so anything which puts yet more fossil carbon into the atmosphere has to be wrong, immoral and should not be permitted by a civilised society.

If we 'invest' in more exploration for oil and gas, and the exploration finds these materials in amounts which makes it cost effective for the company to extract them, then they will apply for an extraction licence and require permission for that. As I'm opposed to this, I see no sense in allowing them to explore.

My second reason for objecting is that none of the gas extraction companies can absolutely promise to have no fugitive emissions of methane. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, over a 100 year timespan, about 23 times as powerful, but over a 20 year timespan, due to its half-life of 14 years, it's effect is somewhere between 70x and 130x that of CO2. We absolutely cannot have ANY methane leaks due to the aforementioned climate catastrophe waiting to impact on our children and grandchildren.

Finally, I'm not convinced that aquifers will be adequately protected. The vertical bores go down through areas of saturated rock, which are often the source of fresh water for agriculture and livestock. Although the petrochemical companies do their best to put casings around the boreholes, these do have a statistical chance of breaking, and thus there's a chance that aquifers could be contaminated with whatever is being put down the well, or what comes up. Because of this, I do not support ANY drilling for oil or gas through water-bearing rocks.  
I ask you to reject this application.
Yours, John Cossham

And finally this comment raised an interesting issue that hadn't occurred to me.
Fracking at West Newton would mean an activity known to trigger small earthquakes close to a large underground natural gas storage facility.  It's on the coast used to store gas as it comes on shore from the North Sea.  What could possibly go wrong?!

This is clearly a fracking operation despite Rathin Energy publicly denying this to the media, 2/03/2014.
 ... There is certainly not enough information to make me assured that Rathlin are aware of the potential risks.
They are proposing to carry out this operation approximately 4 miles from an underground storage facility, if the reports, which have not been publicised, are true, then there are risks of minor earth quakes this could then damage this storage facility, or at least we have no assurances that this cannot happen. 
We have not been given a public meeting to discuss this. Rathin Energy UK tonight denied to the media that they are intending to carry out tests for fracking. However; this is not how this application reads. It smacks of dishonesty. Therefore I oppose this application on the grounds that there is not yet enough transparent information about this project. 
I have a gas site on my doorstep, I have a massive wind farm being erected at my beach, piling into the night, plus all the massive areas of wind farms. I do not want a toxic waste site on my doorstep.

(I think I'll brush over the comment about the wind turbines, which have to be an important part of the alternative to fracking.)

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Yorkshire Post article

This is a pretty good article.  It was the main p2 headline in the paper.

The Yorkshire Post has covered fracking quite a lot.
I also discovered this article from last summer:
  ‘Hippy’ fears keep Greens 
away from gas drilling site

Beverley Guardian article

An article from a couple of weeks ago about our popular stall on a freezing, windy Saturday in Beverley:

Serious flaw in the public consultation process: A Letter to the Environment Agency

*2pm UPDATE* - I notice the consultation is open again until 23:59.  Excellent, thanks to the EA for listening.


The date for the end of the consultation is given on the EA website as:  04/03/14 00:00
This is extremely misleading.
Most people reading that date think the consultation ends today on the 4th.  It didn't.  It closed at midnight last night at the end of the 3rd.

This difference is of great importance because:
a)  This permit may be for fracking, and therefore extremely contentious
b)  news of this permit only finally hit the media on Sun & Mon the 1st & 2nd

Evidence that this timing is so important can be seen in the fact that 11 of the 62 comments listed on the website were made on 2/3, and 20 on the 3/3.
We might expect a similar number of comments to have been attempted today, but those voices will now not be heard.
Yet another reason why I believe, as many of the comments also request, at the very least the consultation period should be extended.

Ideally the Application should be rejected, and Rathlin submit a new application that is more clear about what they intend, and consistent with their public statements up to now.

I notice that several other consultations are listed as ending dd/mm/yyy 23:59
This is much clearer.
But several other consultations also have times of 00:00, including Rathlin's other, similar application that ends on the 12th.  Sorry, I mean the 11th.  These misleading dates need to be changed.

EA Permit Comments - more inspiration

The EA Permit Application for West Newton is open for comments until the end of today.
The application for  Crawberry Hill is open until 11th March.
(note the end time of 12/3/2014 00:00 is midnight on the 11th)

Please comment here.

Not sure what to write?
The comments below may help.
There are also detailed concerns about water contamination here.


Lack of Clarity

It is not at all clear to the local people yet whether or not this application is for fracking, which questions whether the public consultation can be effective.  There has been local media on this story (TV, radio & newspaper) and we do not know whether or not this application is to frack, or to test frack, or to test for possible future fracking.

This definition is crucial, not only for effective regulation by the EA and for the consultation process, but also because of Planning Condition 15- 'no fracking'.

Rathlin say it's not for fracking; yet the well goes into the Bowland shale.
Rathlin have gone further though, and repeatedly and categorically stated that they have "no intention of fracking" in the Community Liaison meetings, but in this application state, "The information gathered during the mini fall-off test
will help determine whether the formation is capable of being hydraulically fractured" which is in direct contradiction.

Climate Change

Further exploration for hydrocarbons will result in future greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions from fossil fuels that would otherwise stay in the ground.
Drilling for hydrocarbons inevitably leads to some escape of methane, a ghg many times more potent than CO2, released when the methane is burnt (over short & medium term), as well as leaks from the storage, distribution & delivery system.
Studies report that if leakage >3.2% the ghg pollution is even worse than emissions from coal.
Bearing in mind the IPCC reports this represents an unacceptable level of environmental damage, even if operations go according to plan.
It is totally incompatible with government ghg reduction targets (eg; 80% by 2050).


This area does not have reservoirs so the entire region entirely relies on the underground aquifer for it's tap water.

Well casings can fail for various reasons, and injecting liquids at pressure can only increase the likelihood.
If the well casing should fail there is risk of contamination of the aquifer, either with chemicals inserted into the well, or with naturally occurring hydrocarbons including oil, that includes BTEX, or methane, or NORMs.  Rathlin admits the levels of NORMs are still unknown.
This in itself would be a catastrophe.
But chlorination treatment by Yorkshire Water could then lead BTEX to form chlorinated organics, and methane to form TCP, CHCl3 etc.


I urge that this application be declined due to:
- lack of clarity on Rathlin's plans in the local community, and whether this application contradicts what Rathlin has stated to the local community
- lack of clarity on what this permit is for, ie; whether it is to frack, or to test frack, or to test for possible future fracking.
- unacceptable level of ghg pollution
- risk to the essential aquifer

If a permit is granted it should only be on condition that Rathlin pays:
- a deposit sufficient to cover the costs of supplying clean & safe tap water (for drinking, bathing & washing) to the entire population of the region that rely on the aquifer, in the event of contamination
- costs to cover other externalised impacts including from increased extreme weather events due to climate change, eg; flooding & storm damage

Monday, 3 March 2014

Headline Radio news- we say Rathlin ARE applying to frack

The debate over whether Rathlin's EA Permit Applications are to frack has made the headlines, and were debated on Radio Humberside this morning.

A Professor from Durham University was on first; there's a clip in this 7:30 bulletin:

I caught most of Lawrence Carter from Greenpeace, just after that

and locals Richard and Peter just after 8 o'clock

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Rathlin's deceit fracking scandal on Look North local TV news

The unfolding scandal of Rathlin breaking their promise not to frack was reported, somewhat tamely, on Look North (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) this evening.  They have mainly presented Rathlin's misleading spin that the Environment Agency Permit Applications do not invlove fracking.

To be clear: our line is that Rathlin's Applications ARE to frack.
We believe a minifrac is a form of fracking.  It's injecting liquid into shale rock to create a small fracture and see what happens.  What is that if not fracking?  (an industry definition
A minifrac is a precursor to full scale fracking, for commercial extraction.

Irritatingly, in the moment of the interview recording I omitted the essential words full scale, giving the incorrect impression that a minfrac is not itself fracking.

Rathlin have tried to disguise the minfrac in the Applications by calling it a 'mini fall off test'.  In the industry this is also known as a mini frac.

It's interesting to see how the media works.  My 2 or 3 minute interview was pretty concise, but explained oil company extremes, Rathlin's deceit, aquifer contamination risks and other concerns...
15 secs got used, clipped mid sentence.  Lesson?  Soundbites.

We were expecting a more in depth piece on the Monday, but apparently it wasn't news by then.