Rabbitte’s review

Rabbitte orders ‘fracking’ study – The Irish Times – Wed, Oct 05, 2011.

Important news from the Republic, where the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out a study of the various impacts of hydraulic fracturing before his government go any further in granting permits.  As he says,

“At present there is currently very little European experience of the process. For this reason I have asked the EPA to examine the area and advise me and [my] colleagues in Government on the environmental implications of fracking.”

This seems a sensible approach, and one which it might be wise for our own representatives to adopt.  What do you think?

How many roads …

… will be recognisable in West Fermanagh, if hydraulic fracturing gets underway?

The fracking would take place through wells drilled on ‘wellpads’, industrial sites constructed throughout what are now rural woods and fields. Let’s look at a single wellpad, the smallest type which could be used,  containing just eight wells. (The licensee, Tamboran Resources, say that they anticipate using a design which could accommodate sixteen or more.) We are assuming a twenty ton lorry as this is about the biggest that will fit on our rural Fermanagh roads.

1. Construction of pad base.
According to Tamboran (see above) an eight well pad occupies approximately six acres = 0.024 square kilometres. This will require a base of aggregate and concrete.
Using a half metre depth of aggregate: 20000 msq x .5 = 10,000 cubic metres of aggregate will be required.
A ton of dry gravel is approx 0.6 cubic metres so each pad base would require 16600 tons or 830 one-way lorry journeys.
Using a 15cm (6 inch) depth of concrete: 0.02 square km x .15m = 3000 cubic metres of concrete will be required.
One cubic metre of concrete weighs around 2.3 tons so each pad base would require 6900 tons or 345 one-way lorry journeys.

2. Sand (used for hydraulic fracturing)
Each well will require around 2500 tons of sand so eight wells will need 20,000 tons or 1000 one-way lorry journeys.

3. Water (used for hydraulic fracturing)
Tamboran say the large 50 x 50 metre water pond on the wellpad will provide eighty percent of the water needed for one well frack*. They anticipate that the pond will be 6metres deep, but kept at around five metres full to avoid any overflow.
This accounts for 50x50x5m = 12500 cubic metres of water.
If this is 80% of the amount required to frack a single well then the total needed must be around 15625 cubic metres or 4.13 million US gallons .
So 8(wells) x 4.13(million gallons/well) x.2 (20 percent not obtained from pond) = 6.6 million gallons of water which will have to be brought to the wellpad.
A tanker lorry weighing 20 tons holds 4800 US gallons.
6.6million gallons divided by 4800(each tanker’s load) = 1376 one-way lorry trips of water (and considerably more, if less water is available via the pond).

*The idea that so much water can practically or safely be diverted from the natural water cycle into these ponds is widely disputed.

4. Waste water (brought back up from the well, contaminated with salt and other substances)
Let’s use 25% as the amount that is likely to flow back to the surface  (this is a conservative estimate). This waste has to be transported somewhere. Given the shallowness of the shale, it is unlikely to be injected back underground, and to treat it on site would be extremely difficult (and require the use of considerable quantities of chemicals).
8 wells x 4.13million(gallons of water per well) x25% = 8.25million US gallons of waste water per pad.
Divided by 4800 (capacity of tanker) this gives 1718 one-way lorry loads of waste water.

5. Other.
Ancillary construction traffic (e.g. to make roads, move equipment etc.) will require at least 100 lorry journeys (and more if, as seems likely, forestry land will be used, so needing tree clearance and excavation / flattening of site). There will also be other smaller vehicular traffic.

Summary
Aggregate : 830
Concrete : 345
Sand : 1000
Water : 1376
Waste : 1718
Ancillary: 100

Total : 5339 x 20 ton one-way lorry journeys per pad.

Tamboran state that “as many as 10 wellpads could be being constructed each year about seven years from now” (on website, as above).
That means 5339 x 10 = 53,390 one-way journeys per year, or well over a thousand every week. Of course, these are one-way journeys and the lorries will have to go back again, so the number can probably be doubled.

Two thousand twenty-ton lorries driving along our narrow rural roads and through our villages and townlands every week. Just take a moment to imagine that.

According to Tamboran’s website, they hope to build around a hundred wellpads, and to add eight or sixteen more wells to each. That means at least this level of heavy goods traffic, and very likely much more, for many, many years. And each wellpad, Tamboran proudly say, “could be required for the full 65 years”.

If you’re old enough, or uncool enough, you probably remember John Denver’s Country Roads:

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowin’ like a breeze.

They’ve had fracking in West Virginia for a while now, recently implicated in the major East coast earthquake and a toxic algae bloom that wiped out thousands of fish along 35 miles of the Dunkard creek.

And one thing is certain, the roads aren’t much like heaven any more.

(Thanks to Tom White for all statistics and calculations)

Enniskillen meeting report

 There were people standing around the edges of the room, in the hallway and spilling out into the car park for Dr Aedin McLoughlin’s presentation at the Clinton Centre on Wednesday 28th September. Dr McLoughlin presented the case for and against shale gas extraction, covering issues including health, quality of life and the effects on the local economy. The aim of the evening was to share information in order to help Fermanagh residents to make an informed decision as whether this gas extraction is welcome in their county. Mr Tom Noble, former Principal of the Erne Integrated College, very ably chaired the meeting, allowing those in attendance to ask questions and share concerns. He ensured that opinions both for and against the process were aired in a respectful manner. Dr Carroll O’Dolan of Florencecourt and Marius Leonard of the Corralea Activity Centre were also on the panel to answer queries.

Some local elected representatives were in the audience and they were called upon by others to “get off the fence” and make their position on the controversial fracking process known. Some were ready to state their views while others said that they would make up their minds when they felt they had all the necessary facts. This was welcomed by other residents, although the urgency of the issue was also emphasised.

The farming community raised issues particularly relevant to them. While leasing their land to the gas exploration companies may seem a lucrative opportunity for farmers, some expressed concerns about the potentially lethal waste that would be left behind and their ultimate responsibility for clearing it. It was also noted with anxiety that the chemical benzene, a petroleum product  found in the flowback fluid coming up from the shale layer, could have a disastrous effect on the local agri-food industry if a leakage occurred. There was also much concern about the fact that planning permission was not required for the laying of gas pipes and that they could be run through any property without the owners’ permission.

Some of the landowners in attendance were very angry that any gas which might be extracted would almost certainly be exported and that very little if any would be used locally, meaning that the local economy would not benefit from lower fuel prices.

Dr O’Dolan was very concerned about the health implications of the process. The precise effects on human and animal health are very difficult to quantify, given that baseline studies are not generally carried out prior to exploration, but it has certainly not been shown that the procedure is safe for people, livestock or wildlife. He suggested we should wait until technology developed further and potential risks were mimimised. After all the gas, if left in the shale layer, is not going anywhere!

The audience was reminded that this process continues to be extremely controversial worldwide, that it is banned in many countries and states, and that pending law suits and protests are ongoing in countries such as the US and Australia where its use is more widespread. In England shale gas extraction has also caused much controversy with recent small earthquakes in Lancashire having been associated with the fracking process in the area. If this were to happen in Fermanagh, people were left to imagine, for example, the impact on the Marble Arch Caves, one of the county’s most important tourist attractions.

The meeting ended with the chairperson reminding those in attendance that the organisers – Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network – were not asking people to say a blanket “no” to shale gas extraction; rather, that they should become informed about the process before they say “yes”.

Further information meetings will be held in Newtownbutler on 4th October and Florencecourt on 26th October. Meetings are also being planned for Derrygonnelly, Garrison and Belleek.

Welcome

FFAN

Welcome to frackaware.com, the website of the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network.  We are a group of Fermanagh residents seeking to find out and share information about shale gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’).  What is fracking and how could it affect us here in Fermanagh: our daily lives, our economy, our environment and our health?  Over the next days and weeks we will be posting more information to help answer these questions as well as news, details about public meetings, events and ways in which you can get involved.  Watch this space!