#FRACKin5: the winner is…

#FRACKin5 has reached its conclusion and it is now time to declare our winner.


Credit: Public Herald

We aimed at electing the most representative picture to portray the issue of hydraulic fracturing as a whole, and the image that won is a clearly anti-fracking case.
We believe that the choice is due to the quality of the picture, and the factor of interest behind the teddy bear. A right punt helps as well.
Political controversy is clearly the aspect of fracking that speaks the most to the general public, and easily we can imagine that most of the voters would have never heard of hydraulic fractures or shale gas weren’t it for Balcombe and the large protests of last summer.
This to conclude that there is still lots of political pressure on the people in charge of taking decisions about this controversial industry. Whether they will remember and make the most of it, it’s another matter.


Books and movie that frack… what you have to look at

Fracking is often a very controversial issue. Convinced pro-fracking advocates, such as Edward Lucas with whom we spoke last week, face the scrutiny of determined opponents like Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton and the Hove, and the Frack-Off Group.
It is one of those issue where both parts deploy serious and convincing arguments and, given the impossibility to find an agreement, the contest gets to its fiercest.

Trying to make things a little bit clearer, or maybe to confuse even more, we at The Fracking Observatory have selected a shortlist of books and movies that we believe you should read and watch on the matter.

Take it as the ultimate ‘Fracking Course’ for wannabe experts, hopefully you will enjoy.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cold-Hungry-Dark-Exploding-Natural/dp/0865717435 Cold Hungry and the Dark is a bible for anti-frackists and environmentalists. That said, the point made from author Bill Powers is rather than fracking will cause a new economic bubble followed by a dark crisis in the next few years rather than an analysis of the impact of the new technology. A must for both pro- and against-.

51+VOD6SZmL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_ Exactly on the other spectrum of the analysis lays Groundswell, from Canadian commentator and advocate Ezra Levant, a convincet analysis of the benefits of fracking. In the book Levant takes a hardline against protesters and campaigners, tearing down their argumentations step after step. An obligate read for any advocate.

51KxWGxjQQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_ A book that tells the story behind the boom in the United States. Authr Russell Gold does not take a position on the matter, but simply limits to tell the story of the first pioneers who opened up wells in Pennsylvania. Whether their action eventually meant success or despair for the communities they worked in is left to the reader to decide.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Frackers-Outrageous-Billionaire-Wildcatters/dp/1591846455 A novel that covers pretty much the same as The Boom, The Frackers is an entertaining account of the mavericks who first tried to extract shale gas and oil in the States. Way more romantic and novelised than the previous, it is a convinced pro-fracking manifest. An overdose of American myth spices up the reading.

img_map_sm A longtime classic, Gasland is probably the most famous documentary on hydraulic fracturing. Director Josh Fox travelled around the US to find out the worst effects of horizontal drilling and fracking. Highly recommended by the films critics, it was shortlisted for the Academy Awards of 2011. A sequel, not as successful as the original, followed two years later.

banner-1 From former Financial Times correspondent Phelim McAleer, this movie was made purposely to counteract the effect that Gasland had after its release. The two journalists even met at University of Chicago and brawled on the issue. A solid argument in favour of hydraulic fracturing and a passionate defense.

MV5BMTQxNDYzNzgyOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTU0NTI1OA@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_ The fanciest of them all. This Hollywood independent production features Matt Damon and John Krasinski to tell the story of a pioneer in search of the ultimate gas field. From director Gus Van Sant, it premiered at Berlin Film Festival in 2013. A screen version of single man’s stories such as the ones narrated in The Boom and The Frackers.

#FRACKin5 SATURDAY: The protests, and shale exploration, keep going


Credit: Public Herald

Hydraulic fracturing is an ongoing issue.
Especially in this country, it is unclear whether new license will trigger the development of an unexploited sector, or if the protesters and campaigners will win their battle to stop the drills.
Yesterday a BGS report has made clear that there is no potential for shale gas exploration in the Weald Basin, where Balcombe is, but left the doors open for oil exploration.
Cuadrilla, in fact, was granted a license to drill for oil in the area in April.

Explorations and tests are spreading all over the globe from Pennsylvania, where this picture was taken, to South Australia.

Six things you need to know about the BGS shale report released today

First of all, the report is published here. You can read all the 89 pages and charts, or follow our six bullet points!

1. What is the BGS and what is the report about?


The British Geologicl Survey is a public-funded that researches over geological issues in the United Kingdom.
Together with the Dep
artment of Environment and Climate Change (DECC)
, the BGS released today a study about onshore shale gas and shale oil in the Weald Basin, approximately an area south of London that spreads from Dorset to Kent. The study aims to assess the scale of oil and gas reserves and their potential for extraction.
The timing of this release has been harshly criticised by the opposition and ant-frack
ing movements, as the publication just a day after the European and local elections is believed to intend to bury controversial news. Tom Greatrex, the shadow energy minister, told the Daily Telegraph: “The timing of these announcements will strike many people as cynically and deliberately driven for a day when focus will be on election performance, and ahead of the count of the European elections.”

Location Map

2. What does it say about shale gas?
The report clears out that there is not enough gas trapped in these shale rocks to make it a significant resource.
No significant shale gas resource is recognised in the Jurassic of the Weal Basin. (Page 1).

Oil and Gas Table

Oil and gas resource estimates per each shale rock type.

3. What does it say about shale oil?
However, the study leaves the door open for the extraction of significant oil resources, estimated between two and eight billion of barrels (bbn).
That said, it may be that only limited amount of shale within the Jurassic of the Weald Basin have any potential to produce oil in commercial quantities. (Page 1).
This is because there is a striking difference between resources and reserves.

4. What is the difference between resources and reserves?
Basically, resources indicates the full amount of oil or gas in-place on site. Oil can be found as a liquid in underground caves or, such as in this case, trapped into shale rocks.
This does not mean that all of the oil, or gas, accounted as resources can be extracted.
Oil and gas can be recovered through conventional or unconventional drilling techniques, such as fracking.
The amount of resources that can be recovered and extracted makes up the reserves.
This does not mean that extracting these reserves is economically profitable.

5. So how much oil is to be found in the area?
The study works on estimates and does not come up with exact figures. However, oil resources vary from two to eight billion barrel (bbn) or, in other words, around 600 million tonnes.
An estimate of 4,4 bbn is believed to be the most accurate. It is still uncertain how much of this potential can actually be extracted and exploited as a commercial source.

Tab Oil

Oil total resource in the Weald Basin area (estimates)

6.Where is the oil?
As the study reports, most of this identified shale oil potential falls on extant licenses, so shale oil drilling and testing does not rely on the award of new licenses. (Page 63).
In other words, oil and gas exploration company such as Cuadrilla and iGas have already been granted the permission to conduct tests and start drilling.
In this sense, the concession of a new license last month must be read as the kick off of a new phase.

Concessions granted in the Weald Basin and existing drilling tests.

Concessions granted in the Weald Basin and existing drilling tests.

#FRACKin5 FRIDAY: Between a rock and a hard place, what fracking means for politicians


Credit: Partido Popular de Cantabria

Shale gas can be a dream for economically depressed communities looking for investments and developments.
However, side effects and health and safety issues make fracking a far from popular option for local councils.
In the UK, for example, Mr Cameron’s enthusiasm for shale gas is not supported from the whole Government and ministers and MPs are warned of what local protests could mean for them at the polls.

The picture shows a community meeting in Cantabria, a region in northern Spain that has been linked to gas exploration in the past few months. Like elsewhere, the local government is fought between economic development on one side and environmental and social issues on the other.

#FRACKin5 THURSDAY: A global spread of protests


Credit: Stephen Downes

Hydraulic fracturing explorations have been launched all over the world, with the United States leading the way in shale gas production. The Department of Energy forecasts that the US, which imported 6 percent of the gas it used in 2012, will be a net exporter of the hydrocarbon by 2018 (source: Bloomberg).

However, protests and anti-fracking campaigns have followed the drills from North Dakota to West Sussex: hydraulic fracturing is a much more invasive technique than conventional drilling as raises several health and safety issues.
Side effects span from increased truck traffic on rural roads to waste of water resources and chemical releases.

The picture shows a protest in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, where actions against the gas operation have been particularly violent.

#FRACKin5 WEDNESDAY: Huge potential and side effects


Credit: Public Herald

Hydraulic Fracturing is a non-conventional extractive technique developed in the United States to produce natural gas mainly from shale deposits.
The final product, generally referred as shale gas, is a mixture of different fossil fuels, but consisting mainly of methane (CH4), a vital resource of energetic supply in Western countries.
Shale gas can become a primary cheap resource in times when other fossil fuels are growing scarcer and alternative technologies fail to prove a long-term reliability.

As a side effect, though, several emissions are released in the air, or, technical jargon, ‘vented’.
These emissions are either substances trapped underground together with the natural gas or left overs from the extractive process.

You can learn more about hydraulic fracturing in our ‘essential’ web page: Fracking: The Essential.

This picture is taken from the Public Herald, you can see the results of their research here.

#FRACKin5 TUESDAY: Cameron is all in


Credit: Number 10

In the United Kingdom, PM David Cameron has openly supported the development of Hydraulic Fracturing.
In this picture, taken on 13 January 2014, Mr Cameron visits an IGas test plant in Gainsbourough, Lincolnshire.
In that occasion, the PM announced that ‘councils can keep 100 per cent of business rates they collect from shale gas sites’, although it is unclear how this would cope with the current tax regulation.

The open commitments to shale gas from the Government has triggered several protests throughout the country and a national campaign for a moratorium on shale exploration.