Controversy

‘Fracking’ can end Ireland’s dangerous reliance on imported natural gas

Ireland is dangerously dependent on imports of natural gas. Bringing home-grown gas ashore and retrieving onshore reserves under western and northwestern counties can end this reliance and transform Ireland into a natural gas exporter.

For more, read ‘Think Tank’ article published in The Sunday Times, below, on 11.03.2012

2 replies »

  1. I am a professional, a mother and a grandmother, living and working in East Clare. I care deeply and passionately about the well being of my children and my children’s children and everyone’s future. Fracking is dangerous. The processes involved in fracking contaminates our water supply, land and wildlife, with or without the so called .5% use of chemicals. There is clear evidence, from wide use of fracking in America, that it can cause cancer because the by products of fracking get into the water table and are consequently ingested. Water is our lifeblood, and is extremely precious and needs to be protected. I dont want my grandchildren to die from cancer caused by fracking in Clare!
    The argument that fracking is a ‘bridge energy source’ between fossil fuel consumption and green energy production does not make sense. The gas runs out in 12 years, the land and water is destroyed, many people will become seriously ill, and some will make a fortune!
    We already have the technology to produce sustainable energy from our wind, seas, rivers and sun. This is where we need to invest for our future generations; not in profit for a few, to the detriment of our land and our people. I suggest anyone who has any questions on fracking to watch ‘Gaslands’, a film being widely shown around Clare.
    I do not believe Sean, that the people of Clare will let the government frack and destroy this county. There will be a huge amount of resistance to it.
    Also, let’s remember where the government’s interests lie, not with the people, and what concerns me imost, is definately not with future generations. The previous Irish government sold our rich natural oil reserves to foreign investors for their own personal profit, and now they want to do more damage for personal profit! How dare consider destroying our health and our precious land for your own profits!

  2. What’s the Problem with Fracking?

    Owen O’Brien

    What is fracking? Is it dangerous? Should we fear it?

    Fracking, or fracturing, is a recently devised technology from the US (where else?) that manages to extract gas from deep underground shale (more than 1 kilometer below) by horizontal drilling. The concrete casing of the horizontal pipe is perforated with small explosive charges and water mixed with sand is pumped through the holes at 5,000 psi (pounds per square inch) to fracture the rock with hairline cracks up to 1,000 feet from the pipe. The sand is used to prop open the fissures; finer sand being used as the cracks propagate further from the pipe. This takes about 3-10 days. The effectiveness of fracking is rising, as 12-stage fracking replaces 5-stage fracking.

    The water used has a sand content of about 5%, 94% water 0.05% friction reducer, 0.05% antimicrobial, 0.03% hydrochloric acid and 0.01% scale inhibitor. In the Lough Allen case, where there has been a huge find, I am given to understand that it is pure water that will be used. That this is happening more than a kilometer deep discounts any fears that water aquifers will be affected, as these are usually at around 150 feet and there is a kilometer of solid rock between the shale and the water.

    The biggest fracking activity going on in the U.S. at the moment is in Pennsylvania in what is known as the Marcellus basin. There are hundreds of wells there where the extraction has been done by fracking. Employment figures are in the hundreds of thousands with average salaries way above the industrial wage. It is boom-time there. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection monitors the activity there and has the power to shut down operators who don’t meet their standards, which they did with Cabot Oil and Gas recently, ordering them to make engineering changes before they recommence drilling. Proper regulation and environmental monitoring is essential.

    The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has tested the water in seven rivers to which treated waste water from gas wells is discharged and found not only no elevation in radioactivity but: “All samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity; and all samples showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228”.

    The other much-taunted film “Gaslands” claim of gas in the water supply has nothing to do with fracking, as methane is often found in aquifers and this was happening long before fracking began. This is misinformation at its worst.

    The shale gas industry uses water: 1-5 million gallons per well. However, its needs are not great in comparison with those of other industries, such as the power generation industry, or even the quantity used in domestic appliances. Gas drilling in Pennsylvania uses less than 60 million gallons per day, compared with 1,550 used in public water systems, 1,680 used in industry and 5,930 used in power generation in the state (US Geological Survey). A single shale gas well uses in total about the same amount of water as a golf course uses in three weeks.

    Given the higher efficiency of gas turbines and the lower carbon content of gas, burning gas produces only 37% of carbon dioxide as burning coal for the same electricity output. In addition, unlike burnt coal, burnt shale gas includes no sulphur dioxides, no mercury and fewer nitrogen oxides.

    The dominant fuel in the world fuel mix has gradually shifted from wood to coal to oil over the past 150 years, with gas the latest fuel to grow rapidly. At this rate gas may overtake oil as the dominant fuel by 2020 or 2030. The consequence of this succession is that the carbon- hydrogen ratio in the world fuel mix has been falling steadily, because the ratio of carbon to hydrogen atoms is about 10-to-1 in wood, 2-to-1 in coal, 1-to-2 in oil and 1-to-4 in gas. On its current trajectory, the average ratio would reach 90% hydrogen in 2060, having been 90% carbon in 1850.

    However shale gas faces a formidable number of enemies in the coal, nuclear, renewable and environmental industries – all keen, it seems, to strangle it at birth, especially in Europe. It undoubtedly carries some environmental risks, which may be exploited to generate sufficient public concern to prevent its expansion in much of Western Europe, even though the evidence suggests that these hazards are much smaller than in competing industries.

    With the economy in the state it is in, we need every boost we can get. Billions of euros would be earned in taxes for the state and our dependence on imported oil and gas would be vastly reduced. On top of that the price of gas is falling in the U.S. as a result of the drilling there, an outcome which would be very welcome here, putting more money in everyone’s pockets and helping the economy recover.

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