Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Fracking qualifies for aged pension

Over on the About Geology Blog, Andrew Alden shows us that yesterday was the 65th anniversary of Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking/Fraccing). I was quite surprised to learn that this “unconventional” technique was developed in my grandparent’s generation. In his blog post Andrew points out some of the controversies in the United States about “Fracking” and provides his opinion on the practice. I don’t want provide to provide any opinion here about the Australian situation, just to outline a very quick summary of how it is used.

Having said the above, I think it is important to mention that there is some differences in experience between Australia and the United States. The main difference being that any chemicals used in “Fracking” must be fully disclosed (unlike the USA where they are much more secretive). Another difference is that in the USA “Fracking” is most commonly used in “Shale Gas” formations where it has been reportedly been linked to many problems with regard to aquifer cross-connection and contamination. Coal Seam Gas in the USA are also a situation where Fracking is frequently used, though this has very few of the same issues of Shale Gas fracking (Blackam 2014).

In Australia “Fracking” is frequently used in “Tight Gas” situations where directional drilling alone is impractical. This practice is especially common in the Moomba Gas Fields of Queensland and South Australia now this field has become depleted in the easily accessible “Conventional” gas. Hydraulic fracturing is also sometimes used in Coal Seam Gas situations. In the Northern Rivers I understand there has only been one case of hydraulic fracturing which was used in a “tight” situation.

This is by no-means a clear bill of health for unrestricted use of the practice of Fracking. Many questions still remain about what damage the practice can cause (e.g. Batley & Kookana 2012).

I’ve done some posts on the different natural gas sources and summarised them on this page. Until I actually do a blog post on what hydraulic fracturing actually is, I recommend this summary from the CSIRO. Alternatively, this CSIRO/Industry publication, though developed in partnership with the gas industry is actually even more detailed and very good.


*Batley, G.E. & Kookana, R.S. 2012. Environmental issues associated with coal seam gas recovery: managing the fracking boom. Environmental Chemistry. vol9 p425-428
*Blackam, M. 2014. Source, Fate and Water-Energy Intensity in the Coal Seam Gas and Shale Gas Sector: An Exploration of the relationship between energy and water in the unconventional gas sector. Water, Journal of the Australian Water Association. vol41 No.1 p51-56

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