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Guest post: Save the Fylde – keep the earthquake safety limit at 0.5

Save the Fylde slogan

Chartered Electrical Engineer, Michael Hill, stood as an independent candidate in the 2015 general election on a “Save the Fylde” ticket, highlighting his concerns about the fracking industry. In this guest post, he argues that his message seems more relevant now than ever as he makes the case why the safety limit on fracking-induced earthquakes should not be altered.

Mike Hill

Michael Hill


Cuadrilla’s request to relax the rules over earthquakes caused by fracking appears to be based very much on commercial viability and should be refused. The operator must demonstrate that there is a safety reason for doing so or that safety will not be compromised in anyway.

The company has apparently asked for the threshold for seismic activity at which fracking must pause to be raised from a local magnitude (ML) of 0.5 to 2.0.

The industry and government had agreed in 2012 that the 0.5 ML limit was necessary for safety. But following the recent series of earthquakes linked to fracking, Cuadrilla is clearly unable to operate consistently within that limit. The public are very concerned about what has happened and the government has said it will not raise the limit, despite its support for the shale gas industry. So we have a collision of interests between public safety, politics and finances.

Either the limit is raised to allow for the commercial viability of fracking in the UK or safety will take precedence over financial considerations and the science and engineering that led to the introduction of the 0.5 ML limit will be respected.

This might result in fracking being terminated in the UK after just two wells have been fracked and for the same reason: earthquakes.

Cuadrilla’s previous fracking operation in 2011, at Preese Hall, also in the Fylde, was linked to a series of 50 earth tremors.

As the then Technical Advisor to Fylde Borough Council, I reviewed a report commissioned by Cuadrilla on those earthquakes. I also discussed with officials at Cuadrilla and the then Department of Energy and Climate Change the recommended safety limit of 0.5ML. To be clear I did not set the limit but did review the value with the DECC and have first hand knowledge of the debate that took place.

I agreed with senior civil servants that the 0.5ML limit would be very hard to work within. But after long discussions and some mathematical modelling, it was agreed this should be the threshold. The main reason was that considerably larger magnitude earthquakes can and do happen many hours after fracking has stopped. The limit was agreed as it was necessary for safety. This rationale has not changed.

To raise the seismic threshold now has no basis in science or engineering. It will reduce safety and could lead to a catastrophic incident. It must be refused by the UK government regardless of pressure from the industry. Safety must always take precedence over commercial viability.

The industry is endeavouring to focus the media and public’s eyes on “felt” seismicity. It is talking about the level of earthquakes that actually shake our houses.

But the risk at the moment is not to construction above the ground but to what lies below: the wellbore itself.

We do not know the intensity of the ground movement at the borehole but it is immediately clear that the intensity at the wellbore must be greater than at the surface. Just as in April 2011 when the first well to be fracked (Preese Hall 1) was damaged, this must be a very real possibility now. We do not know.

The cement surrounds the steel tubes inside the borehole (casing) and it fills the gap between the casing and the borehole wall – the actual rocks that have been drilled through. It is the only thing that is stopping (to date) up to 11.5 million litres of fracking waste from vertically migrating up the side of the borehole. It can do this in the annulus between the cement and the casing and can move up to the higher areas and eventually the aquifer.

Why would fluid move upwards against gravity? The reason  is twofold. Firstly it is understood by hydrogeologists that fracking fluids are less dense than surrounding formation fluids and hence rise; and secondly the pressures during and immediately after fracking are huge (in the range 2,000 – 15,000 psi). The fracking fluid will find the path of least resistance. Due to repeated and increasing energy earthquakes, the gap around the casing and between the cement and the formation wall could have increased.

The integrity of the well – keeping full control of fluids in the well at all times – is critical to protecting us from pollution. Cuadrilla has said it is checking and verifying well integrity after each earthquake by monitoring the annular pressure.

But annular pressure is a very crude tool. It will tell an operator if well integrity is lost – but an entire string of cement must have failed before you will know anything. As you typically only have three strings in an entire well then this represents a very significant failure before you are aware of it. Annular pressure checks on their own are not enough to guarantee well integrity.

There are other measures that should be conducted. Also training on the “habitualisation of risk” must be reinforced. This is where it becomes “normal” to have repeated earthquakes and workers start to ignore what are in fact significant risks to well integrity. They “believe their own press” that all is fine, the AP says so and the procedures are working – so they think. In fact the opposite can be the case but you just don’t realise it as you have alarm fatigue and become habitualised to the risk.

Habitualisation of risk is, I believe, already happening with Cuadrilla’s calls to increase the 0.5ML seismic threshold.  The regulators – Environment Agency, Oil & Gas Authority and Health and Safety Executive – may also be experiencing it. They concluded in the latest community bulletin that the seismic activity near the site was within the expected range for fracking. This plays down the very real threat to the well and attempts to normalise a very abnormal situation.

The Environment Agency has said it would demand that fracking is stopped if there was a loss of integrity that could lead to contamination following a quake. But it relies on Cuadrilla’s daily reports to confirm there are no well integrity issues. One may conclude allowing “the regulated” to tell “the regulator” what is the situation on something so important is taking “self-regulation” to dangerous levels.

The regulators have failed to answer my questions: how is it that earthquakes of increasing magnitude and quite astonishing frequency (as per BGS website) above 0.5ML can ever be in line with the agreed Hydraulic Fracturing Plan? To have quakes of 1.1ML –  pause for 18 hours, reduce the pressure and then continue – which has nearly always led to a bigger event –  how is this “managing seismicity”?

The regulators should take responsibility for what they are responsible for. They must act now – not after the damage has been done. The present scenario being presented by the operator appears to be: we agreed to the 0.5 limit, we helped set it up, we thought we could operate within it, now we discover we can’t, we do not understand why, so let’s raise the limit so we can hit the formations with a bigger hammer and see what happens then!

As a Chartered Engineer, heavily involved in this topic for a long period, I feel it would be reckless to raise the 0.5ML limit. To do so would be putting the public of the Fylde at even greater risk of severe damage to health and the environment than they already are. The 0.5ML limit is there for a reason and that reason has not changed. Safety must always take precedence over commercial viability.


Michael Hill, BSc (Hons) C.Eng. MIET, Expert Member of the Technical Working Group on Hydrocarbons at the EU Commission.

This post is based on a more detailed analysis of the earthquakes caused and the risks of increasing the seismic safety threshold: Independent engineering review of the earthquakes on the Fylde caused by fracking.  This analysis has been sent to: Tom Wheeler, Director of Regulation Oil and Gas Authority, Clare Perry MP, energy and clean growth minister; Greg Clark MP, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy; Sir James Bevan, chief executive, Environment Agency.

DrillOrDrop always welcomes guest posts. Please contact us if you have a proposal

108 replies »

  1. Mike Hill advised Fylde District Council did he? Not according to them? http://www.fylde.gov.uk/news/2012/sep/060912mikehill/

    Mike advised the DECC did he? Not according to them?
    https://www.facebook.com/download/preview/1379609329032705

    Mike seems to bigging up his ‘EU’ credentials again, in spite of the fact that EU say he is there as a ‘member of civil society’, ie, NOT a specialist, but representing FoE I would guess.
    https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/ruling/?id=02280-14

    Odd that Mike’s supposed expertise in oil and gas is only briefly mentioned in his CV. Selling a specialist pump unsuccessfully for a few years doesnt teach you anything about drilling problems.
    http://mark.co.uk/the-team-2/

    Mike is currently under complaints procedures with his Chartering body, the IET. Why does he need lawyers to defend his engineering claims?
    https://uk.gofundme.com/fracking-whistleblowing

    I am afraid that Mikes comments are not worthy of a response. He fails to understand even basic aspects of well flows and sealing, and now appears that he considers himself an expert in seismology. Sad really.

    • Hi Ken

      Thanks for your comment. It is perhaps a pity to spend time discussing job descriptions rather than engaging with the content of the article.

      However, as you have raised these points and presumably feel that it affects the credibility of the post, let me deal with some of them.

      Fylde borough council: We’ve been asked to point out that Mike Hill was Technical Advisor to Fylde Borough Council from 2011-2012. He was asked by Cllr K Mulholland, there was a vote and a motion passed. This was minuted. Any further statements subsequent to 2012 were made by the council to correct the media (not Mike Hill) incorrectly stating that he was still an advisor in later years and quite correctly acknowledges that Mike was not implying this either.

      DECC: In the piece, the author does not claim that he “advised” DECC, but rather discussed regulations with officials.

      EU: Mike Hill describes himself in the article as a member of a Technical Working Group. Your link refers to a debate some years ago.

      IET: The complaints procedure is ongoing, so it is not appropriate to comment on this at the moment.

      Please see our comments policy on “playing the man not the ball” https://drillordrop.com/drillordrop-comment-policy/

  2. Hi Paul. Normally I would agree with you but in this case the issue IS the man. The vast amount of completely unsustainable claims he has made mean its impossible to take anything he says seriously. He has claimed that the Fylde would sink into the sea after fracking. See http://stopfyldefracking.org.uk/latest-news/more-shocking-revelations-about-fracking-in-the-fylde/
    The supposed concerns about radioactive ‘rods’ are something that I have used many times. (It is actually called a source). These measure porosity and density and these logs are required to be used by law. This is perfectly safe, and yet Mike, who claims to have been a wireline engineer does not seem aware of this. Wireline engineers do this. (I know as I was one for 12 years).

    In his unpublished ‘paper’ he is claiming that water food and the environment could be at risk from an integrity failure. This is incorrect. This matter is looked at by experienced professionals in geophysics, engineering and geology. The EA are required to shut down any operations if there is a risk, but there is no risk! The water in PNR is not used for anything as its polluted by sea water and cattle faeces.
    Cuadrilla are testing the integrity of the casing anyway, they report. (Presumably an annular pressure test?) In any case there is no driving mechanism to move water up through 2 km of rock. This is recognised in the RAE report of 2012. (Key point 2)
    https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/shale-gas-extraction/report/

    I could write much more.

    • Hi Ken

      Mike Hill’s post was reviewed by a drilling expert and geologist before it was posted.

      The material on StopFyldeFracking dates from 2012, and is quoting Mike Hill. Predictions have been proved right in one respect in that seismic activity has increased. At the moment there is no proof either way on what would happen if there were large-scale fracking on the Fylde.

      • Hello Paul Moderator:

        Who are the drilling experts and the geologist you refer to above? As you are aware I fall into the former category and find that Mr. Hill has little to offer from a technical standpoint and unfortunately for Mr Hill most of Ken Wilkinson’s comments re Mr. Hill ( and Judith Green’s) are valid.

        No one in my extensive industry contact data base has heard of him working in the O & G industry (other than applying to Cuadrilla for a job) – of course he may well have worked in industry, but he is certainly not known in electric wireline and or seismic upstream operations.

        He made many claims in the past which were debunked. Anyone who responds to an EU (or any other) “consultation” can be considered an “Expert Member of the Technical Working Group on Hydrocarbons at the EU Commission”? Many on this BB will require several pages of “Expert Memberships” after their names if they choose to go down this self promoting nonsensical route…..

        Ruth and yourself are aware that I know how and when the 0.5 came about however I have a confidentiality issue at present. But it is certainly more to do with Politics than Science.

        Thanks in advance.

      • Paul, Mike Hill mentioned the meme of the shale gas wells being used for radioactive waste at the Canterbury debate, at he & I were a panelist. Prof Smyth was also a panelist, & he nodded in agreement with Mike Hill’s claim. The false claim was also made at that “debate” about Preese Hall losing it’s well integrity. I gave a strong verbal rebuke at the time calling these “malicious claims, that were not true”. Indeed the BGS had previously put out a post on its website refuting that shale gas wells were being drilled for radioactive waste disposal.

        • Paul (moderator – my post above was also addressed to you). Mike Hill attends this EC initiative devolved to the Joint Research Group (JRC). It is about unconventional hydrocarbons,

          https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/uh-network

          I have only missed one meeting (I am a registered expert with the EC). I attend them at my own expense. NGO’s can claim their travel & associated expenses from the JRC. It is my understanding that Mike Hill is supposed to represent the NGOs at this network’s meetings, he has only been present at a couple of the meetings, as far as I know. He was not present at the last meeting I attended, which was a major workshop on knowledge sharing, particularly with N. American researchers, operators, regulators, hosted in Amsterdam.

          • Paul (Moderator) Mike Hill back in 2017 held a public meeting in Lytham claiming that Preston New Road site to be “generally accepted to be the largest capacity fracking pad anywhere on earth” You covered this on Drill or Drop. The website for that meeting (now decommissioned) had a link within it that led to a “justgiving” site for people to donate to cover the cost of the Lytham Meeting & future ones. I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, supplying them with Mr Hill’s claims, compared to the planning approvals for the PNR site, and the largest shale gas fraccing site in the world at the time. Demonstrating that Mr Hill’s claims were untrue, & that he was misleading the public in order to receive donations from them. Unfortunately the ASA could not uphold my complaint on the grounds, & I quote directly from their e-mail “Our remit only covers marketing communications for causes and ideas if they appear in paid-for spaces, or if they contained direct solicitations for donations or purchases. We will only assess marketing communications for causes and ideas that appear in paid-for or donated spaces, and we won’t consider complaints about other communications (e.g. emails, leaflets, mailings, SMS text messages and the like) unless there’s an explicit solicitation for donations as part of the marketer’s own fund-raising activities. We note that in the course of assessing your complaint, any link to the JustGiving page from The Shale Gas Office’s website has been removed, and as there is not a direct solicitation for donations on the material that you object to, The Shale Gas Office’s website falls outside our remit.

            We also note that the JustGiving page that you object to is run by a private individual, which is not a direct solicitation of donations from a company, organisation or sole trader on their own website. As such, the JustGiving page, where the particular claim that you object to appears, is part of that individual’s own fund raising activities and so also falls outside our remit. For these reasons, we will not be taking your complaint further. ”

            So Mr Hill was operating outside the remit of the paper tiger, the ASA. It is the one and only time I have ever complained to them. I doubt I will waste my time again. I have copies of the screen dumps from the defunct website (which I sent to the ASA) if you would like to publish them on Drill or Drop.

            • Nick, I’m sure that Mr Juncker sent out his private jet for Mr Hill to attend the said meetings – but given his expertise on the subject I’m sure you can see why he had more important meetings to attend

    • Hi Ken,
      If you live on the Fylde, and if not please stop posting about my Community, you must have noticed the large construction site running to the seaside of Lytham and Fairhaven promenades.
      Apparently they are enhancing the sea defences because they, IE the local and county councils, believe that these areas are otherwise in danger of being overwhelmed by the increased water levels coming our way soon.
      Now I’ve lived around here many years and I cannot recall the sea ever threatening these areas before! The Authorities must know more than they are saying to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers cash on this project.
      Beware!

      • [Edited by moderator]

        As for climate change, well getting away from coal is the first priority, and the UK (and US) are world leaders in reducing GHG emissions. All a bit of a waste of time seeing as Australia has doubled its coal exports in the last 10 years, all to Asian countries that could import gas instead….

  3. [Edited by moderator] Maybe [Mr Hill] could take time from all of his advising to such eminent bodies to clarify a few points in his article:-

    1) “To be clear I did not set the limit but did review the value with the DECC and have first hand knowledge of the debate that took place.”

    Could Mr Hill tell us which experts that he discussed this with and whose opinions he heard at “first hand”?

    2) “But after long discussions and some mathematical modelling,”

    Could Mr Hill give some details of the mathematical modelling? I for one would like direction on which mathematical models can be used to predict induced-seismicity.

    3) “the science and engineering that led to the introduction of the 0.5 ML”
    Could Mr Hill provide some indication of which science and engineering experts contributed to this decision and whether or not they’re respected by others in their field of expertise?

    4) “To raise the seismic threshold now has no basis in science or engineering. It will reduce safety and could lead to a catastrophic incident.”

    Could Mr Hill provide an example of where such a catastrophic accident has occurred previously? Given that over 2 million frackjobs have been conducted, one would assume that if such a catastrophic incident was likely to occur then there would be evidence for such an occurrence within the pool of knowledge that has being built on this subject.

    5) “The cement surrounds the steel tubes inside the borehole (casing) and it fills the gap between the casing and the borehole wall – the actual rocks that have been drilled through. It is the only thing that is stopping (to date) up to 11.5 million litres of fracking waste from vertically migrating up the side of the borehole. It can do this in the annulus between the cement and the casing and can move up to the higher areas and eventually the aquifer.

    Why would fluid move upwards against gravity? The reason is twofold. Firstly it is understood by hydrogeologists that fracking fluids are less dense than surrounding formation fluids and hence rise; and secondly the pressures during and immediately after fracking are huge (in the range 2,000 – 15,000 psi). The fracking fluid will find the path of least resistance. Due to repeated and increasing energy earthquakes, the gap around the casing and between the cement and the formation wall could have increased.”

    Could Mr Hill explain how the huge pressure would push 11.5 million litres of water to the surface? Surely as an engineer he knows that water is very incompressible and that a very small amount of water would be forced to the surface due to decompression. If he’s thinking about the gas pushing the water from >2km maybe he could explain how this would happen given the mobility ratio of brine and gas. Also, could he provide a model as to how density driven advection in a microannulus could result in significant movement of fracking fluid to the surface?

    6) “But annular pressure is a very crude tool. It will tell an operator if well integrity is lost – but an entire string of cement must have failed before you will know anything. As you typically only have three strings in an entire well then this represents a very significant failure before you are aware of it. Annular pressure checks on their own are not enough to guarantee well integrity.”

    Could Mr Hill provide an example of such a failure mechanism in a shale gas well with the same design as those of the wells at PNR

    7) “As a Chartered Engineer, heavily involved in this topic for a long period, I feel it would be reckless to raise the 0.5ML limit. To do so would be putting the public of the Fylde at even greater risk of severe damage to health and the environment than they already are. The 0.5ML limit is there for a reason and that reason has not changed. Safety must always take precedence over commercial viability.”

    [Edited by moderator]

    • Please watch Channel 4 from last night regarding the damage done by earthquakes at Groningen in Holland before disrespecting the knowledgeable Mr. Hill.
      Thank you.

      • Groningen is nothing to do with shale gas extraction Peter Roberts.
        The shale is a compact rock that will not compact if gas is extracted. Groningen is a traditional reservoir that has high gas pressure that partially supports the rock above. As the pressure has reduced, the land is sagging.

        Not a chance in the world of this happening in shale gas extraction according to 100% of scientists.

    • Given the fact that the Environment Agency and the DECC are one of the regulators of the proposed shale gas industry it must be assumed that extensive scientific research was carried out when in 2012 at the UK shale gas summit,

      The EA’s Tony Grayling said a 0.5 limit was practicable. “The reason why the DECC report set the seismic limit at 0.5 magnitude far lower than the 1.7 is because there is a time delay between the fracking process and larger tremors. Unless you stop them at a lower level you risk a larger tremor later.

      It would appear that Mr Hill’s comments on a 0.5 magnitude threshold are in line with the EA and the findings by the DECC.

      Maybe Judith Green is unaware of the input from the DECC and the EA.

      As Cuadrilla triggered amber and red events within days of starting at PNR it has been proven that the EA and the DECC were correct.

      • I’m fully aware of the input from DECC and EA. However, is John Powney aware that DECC or EA do not have significant expertise in seismicity. You are also wrong to assume that extensive scientific research backed up the limit of 0.5 – from what anyone can tell it was simply the opinion of three scientists. Most of the seismologists that I know certainly think 0.5 is too low. I’m intrigued to why you reach the conclusion that “Cuadrilla triggered amber and red events within days of starting at PNR it has been proven that the EA and the DECC were correct”. It have argued totally the opposite. No one with experience of these issues thought that fracking could be conducted without triggering events above 0.5 – such events are to be expected and have no impact on anything. So I would argue that they show that the limit of 0.5 was totally wrong. It should be closer to or above 2.0.

        • Then what a great pity your friends at Cuadrilla, who crowed to the Energy Minister that they had “developed” the TLS “with industry experts”, didn’t think to mention at the time the rather crucial point that “No one with experience of these issues thought that fracking could be conducted without triggering events above 0.5”.

          You seem to be suggesting that Cuadrilla didn’t know what they are doing Judith, as they clearly must have thought exactly that when they developed a system with a 0.5 Ml threshold, or they would have been making a fuss 6 years ago and not shortly after they caused 36 seismic events.

          As Mark Menzies MP pointed out recently, that ship has sailed.

          Out of interest who are the three scientists whose of whose opinions and reserach you are so dismissive? Are we talking about Dr Greene, Professor Styles and Dr Baptie here? The ones whose report was based on “A series of studies [which] were commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd”. If so would you explain how you are somehow better qualified to pronounce on this issue than them?

          • Like any company, Cuadrilla will get a range of opinions. I really don’t think that the employment of a group of individuals should be taken as an endorsement of either their opinions or scientific opinion.

        • The only factual evidence of hydraulic fracturing in the Bowland basin shale layers is from the Preese Hall well.

          In 2011 Cuadrilla carried out 6 fracking treatments at Preese Hall. Their completion report has all the details of gas flow in relation to volumes injected and pressures.

          They have the experience and the data and yet for the last 7 years they have always referred to the TLS and the 0.5M threshold.

          It is their ES that states,

          “The hydraulic events induced by hydraulic fracturing do not typically exceed magnitude 0 ML and very rarely exceed 0.5 ML.”

          So I would conclude that they chose not to challenge the DECC and the BGS who imposed the 0.5M threshold.

          Their data, their evidence, their choice.

          It has been well noted that in the AJ Lucas investment report of 2018 it states,

          “The new regime includes the requirement for seismic monitoring of each well site area and a system under which operations are halted if seismicity reaches a level greater than 1.7 ML (Operation has to stop if 1.7 is exceeded, the well bled off and then the seismicity monitored until zero events for at least 10 days, then the operation can recommence, otherwise the operation has to be aborted and the seismic risk reevaluated)”

          There seems to be no mention of the 0.5M threshold.

          I wonder why that would be and what would be the commercial viability percentage at a 0.5M threshold?

          https://www.edisoninvestmentresearch.com/?ACT=18&ID=20787&LANG

      • Refracktion – a post on the Refracktion FB page on 10th November purports to show the location of the Wakepark Fault in relation to the PNR-1Z and PNR 2 wells, with the comment ‘The dotted blue line shows where we believe the Wakepark Fault to be. Perhaps it’s actually a little further west than is shown here and this explains why Cuadrilla shortened both wells?’

        What you are actually showing is the surface location of the fault and not the subsurface location at the level of the PNR-1Z and PNR-2 wellbores. As David Smythe posted on his website on 22nd October http://www.davidsmythe.org/frackland/ ‘at the depths of the Bowland Shale this fault lies about 1km west of the toe of the PNR-1Z well’ – more than a ‘little further west’ don’t you think? Accuracy and all that…..

    • Jackthelad: It is very easy to form an opinion from “news articles” without knowing all the facts so here’s a few that you may like to consider: 1. The Netherlands are reducing gas production not abandoning it. 2. The geology of the major gas fields in the Netherlands comprises mainly of Sandstone – this has very different characteristics from Shale. Gas has been produced for over 50 years in the Netherlands and technology has advance considerably in that time allowing safer & more effiicient work practices.

      • A few facts on Cuadrilla in the Netherlands

        1.Energy group Cuadrilla, which had been given a licence to test drill for shale gas at two locations in the Netherlands, is currently appealing to the Council of State against Kamp’s decision to suspend its licence after bringing in the five year ban.

        https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2018/02/dutch-minister-confirms-ban-on-drilling-shale-gas-not-an-option/

        2.In the recent court ruling on Cuadrilla’s suspended licence it appears unlikely that Cuadrilla will be allowed to frack in the Netherlands

        It would therefore be extremely illogical if the shale gas permits were extended under the new Mining Act. Moreover, there is the promise of Minister Wiebes of Economic Affairs and the Climate to extract shale gas from the Structure Vision Substrate.

        https://www.schaliegasvrij.nl/

        If extracting shale gas from way down is not going to cause a problem why has the Dutch Government said no? Surely they would want to replace what they are loosing from Groningen.

        • They said no to fracking because it’s an easy PR win. From most predictions, the thermal maturity of the shale in the Netherlands isn’t sufficient to put it in the gas window hence it’s not likely to produce too much gas.

          • ‘ the thermal maturity of the shale in the Netherlands isn’t sufficient to put it in the gas window’

            But Cuadrilla are fighting their suspended licence.

            Investor beware

            • They’ve done their homework and identified one of the most thermally mature areas. They could be on to a winner in that it’s quite likely to be liquid-rich.

    • Jack – fracking? I thought it was subsidence due to collapsing porosity of the conventional reservoir which caused the seismicity in Holland at Groningen? A bit like Ekofisk in the Norwegian sector which subsided due to the chalk reservoir collapsing with depletion? The Channel 4 News article is a like a Guardian article – trying to tell us the two are the same when they are very different.

  4. The Groningen gas field setting is completely different to the setting of shale gas. Groningen is due to differential subsidence in a conventional gas field, which compacts as pressure is blown down from a conventional reservoir rock Channel 4 were right to put a news item out on Groningen, even though it is old news, but they were wrong to equate the process & risks with shale gas extraction.

        • The decision was 100% political. Currently, the Dutch government are looking at many different energy options. They have employed a lot of people to look at deep geothermal but they are pulling away from that because the risks of large earthquakes are far bigger than continuing extraction from Groningen

          • Judith, yes the option for deep geothermal has been around for some time in the Dutch/Belgium sector. It is not entirely unfounded. This is because there is a deep rift structure which comes up through the Eifel district from Germany underneath the Netherlands, thence up through the N. Sea (Viking Graben). In the Eifel district there are CO2 springs, known from Roman times, associated with the high heat flow in this rift, such as at Maria Laach (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/386826.pdf). There are also volcanic prehistoric events in that district (inlcuding some that have evidence of human habitation beneath some volcanic sediments). One such event dammed the Rhine Gorge to form a temporary lake that burst and caused catastrophic flooding downstream. This event provides a widespread correlation horizon in the sediments of the Rhine delta (Netherlands). Embedded within the very waterlogged, poorly consolidated sediments that are now prone to liquefaction in the Netherlands. Hence, I can understand the decision of the Dutch Government and fears from human induced seismicity. However, have they any plans for natural seismic activity, which could be far worse than human induced, that could emanate from the geological rift that I refer to??

            • Nick, it was my point to them exactly. I think the issue is that the temperatures they need (180 oC) means about 6km depth. So they are looking at the Dinantian – to get the volumes they are thinking of targeting karst structures that are often fault-related. Such a strategy wouldn’t look good if high fluid pressures or thermal contraction caused a significant seismic event. However, I like the idea – do you think we have scope in the UK?

            • Judith, As you probably know there is currently a well spudding into Cornish granite to extract geothermal heat derived from radioactive decay in the granite. It is hoped that this will produce Thermal springs occur at Bath & Bristol, from meteoric waters hosted in the Dinantian (long residence time and trajectory at around 2-3Km depth). Buxton & Harrogate have similar but cooler springs. The Viking Graben (Central N Sea) is certainly a hot spot and fluids coming up from oil & gas production show this. In terms of biggest impact for the UK, I think relatively shallow ground source heat is probably the most pragmatic, not for power generation, but for space & water heating, simply because it is accessible at the point of use and potentially widely available to a significant amount of people.

    • Ahh yes, some similarities overlooked….a traffic light system, a disbelief that less than 4m could cause damage to properties, a government not listening to the people and a subsequent bill of billions to fix; people living in boxes outside their houses, in fear, without recompense in an area with very few natural faults, unlike the Fylde; when are you gonna give over this industry speak Nicky; that article is the death nell….

      • Sherwulfe, Having been an advisor to several UK energy ministers, they sometimes make decisions that are political (even if the science suggests otherwise). That is their right. A key issue with the Dutch situation is the thick sequence of unconsolidated waterlogged sediments upon which most of the Netherlands is built (as much of the country is sited on a delta). Ground motion that would not normally cause surface damage, can. See https://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/sfgeo/liquefaction/aboutliq.html

        • But it did, and people spoke out, but the government did not listen until the houses came tumbling down costing billions to fix; common Nicky boy, stop defending these assh&les and start leading the way back to the promised land; dump the fossils…

            • Sherwulfe – you are sniping, please stop. Sometimes, less is more. You do contribute good challenges to this debate at times. I answer you with respect. I do not mind genuine concerns by individuals who seek expert opinion, and respect an evidence based approach, indeed I admire & encourage such people, but I do not encourage sniping.

            • ‘sniping
              the act of bidding on an item on ebay literally seconds before the auction ends. This prevents anyone from outbidding you while also ensuring that you don’t bump the price up too much.’

              so no sniping here; wrong site 😉

              I understand the truth is becoming a burden to you and you perceive it as a personal attack, but rest assured, the truth is that the fossil fuel industry is killing the planet, that you are a part of that machine. It is very real.

              No hiding required by me Nicky, totally polite at all times. If you trawl back, you will see all my referenced information.

              I am your reminder that you cannot hide behind papers and perceptions; that you need to come out of the dark and face the inevitable destruction you are waging by standing up for shale. I would ask that you use your intelligence and the next 12 years to rectify all that was misconstrued by supporters of fossil fuels and in particular unconventional gas extraction.

            • p.s this is not your blog Nicky. On this post you offered your comments, you were not asked for them – I would surmise it is not your place to dictate what can and cannot be said and in what form here…[I believe that splendid job belongs to the fab team who bring us DOD]

              Perhaps you should set up your own blog with the parameters you set, if it makes you feel more comfortable?

            • Sherwulf, other enduring definitions of sniping, rather than your very selective one (that would be appropriate on an auction site- which this is not). This is not your site either, yet you keep posting as if it was your site & you alone make the rules?

              snipe
              /snʌɪp/Submit
              verb
              gerund or present participle: sniping
              1.
              shoot at someone from a hiding place, especially accurately and at long range.
              “the soldiers in the trench sniped at us”
              2.
              make a sly or petty verbal attack.
              “the state governor constantly sniped at the president”

            • I don’t recall giving you any instructions regarding etiquette on this site Nicky? It is you who seem to want to control the proceedings; lo0k, we could go at this all day, best to ‘man up’ eh and take it on the chin?

              Thankfully I don’t own a gun, nasty horrible things used to kill children.

              There are no sly or petty verbal attacks from me; I state only the reality of what you are and what you stand for, never petty, and certainly not verbal, as this is a written response.

              I understand you feel uncomfortable; this is good, because when we are comfortable being uncomfortable we can learn from our mistakes…there is hope for you yet.

          • Sherwulfe – the thing is that the Dutch government did listen . If you bothered to read up on the subject there has been continued reports funded by the Dutch government that have looked into this matter for the last 30 years. But don’t let facts get in the way of a quaint little narrative

  5. BBC Northwest tonight, put a 1.1Mag in context, “like someone dropping a 1KG bag of flour on the floor next to you” stated a Liverpool University researcher, reported to be commissioned by the government to independently review the seismic events so far recorded at PNR. The broadcast then interviewed Prof Stuart Haszeldine (who, quite rightly wants to inject megatonnes of CO2 into UK reservoir rocks, as I do), says that the risk is not just the energy from injecting fluids for fracking, but also the release of energy already stored up in the rocks. So how come you promote CCS Stuart? I am perplexed. Also, shales do not store much energy, they are not very hard brittle basement rocks.

    • Nick, surely you realise that Stuart isn’t too bright. He’s been wrong about pretty much everything is his career. Check out his work on sandstone diagenesis – totally laughable

        • Exactly – maybe he”s realised that his stupidity with rad waste has contributed to our CO2 emissions and is now trying to pay penance. Sadly, he always backs the wrong horse. When I realised he was into CCS it made me really question whether it would go ahead on the basis that he has a great skill at being wrong

            • I agree that the Norwegians are doing a reasonable job with CCS. As I’m sure you know, it will need accelerating rapidly if it is too have impact. There are also a few issues to overcome; it’s interesting that Groningen is mentioned above as it’s the biggest pore volume available for CCS but in the recent review of ways to reduce seismicity that it was suggested that increasing pressure by nitrogen injection could increase earthquake risk. There is also the problem with saline aquifers that lab measurements might have been overestimating the pore volume compressibility which would massively reduce the volume of CO2 we could inject without pressure management. The latter would of course produce many many orders of magnitude more fluid to dispose of than fracking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of CCS but like you say – we will need big incentives to make it work and to get it up to speed to make a difference

            • Judith, That’s why I am a big fan of banning coal & having only CCS from gas. CCS from coal would double the geological capacity needed to store captured CO2 relative to gas. Yes, it is true that saline aquifer injectivity & capacity is probably oversimplified, hence the need for more demonstrations. Up scaling from lab to field can only be refined by doing, rather than producing endless studies that end up forgotten on dusty shelves, or in the cloud. See https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2018/04/action-to-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions

  6. Judith, your questions are sound. I am sure an FOI request would resolve claims about advising DECC offficials from Mr Hill. Regarding the competance of the gelogists who recommended the 0.5M limit in the traffic light system. I think with the knowledge & experience at the time, they made a sensible cautious recommendation, & had the scientific expertise to make it. But even they made this point “We recommend a threshold of 0.5 ML for cessation of operations, to minimise the probability of further felt earthquakes. We also suggest that a more detailed analysis of seismic activity is required, rather than application of a simple upper limit, so that numbers, magnitudes and mechanisms of any induced earthquakes are considered. We also recommend that these values are refined as more experience and data is acquired, to better understand the behaviour of any induced seismicity.” So Cuadrilla have now acquired the most detailed and transparent observations of a horizantal frac in the Bowland Shale. So, a question for the regulator & to be signed off by the Minister, is that what we have observed from the very accurate monitoring, is it safe to raise the 0.5M threshold. My advise would be yes, but only incrementally. But is not my call, nor is it Mr Hill’s. The report (my quote comes from the recommendations on page 13 of the report – of course Mr Hill omits this part of the report) can be accessed here. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48330/5055-preese-hall-shale-gas-fracturing-review-and-recomm.pdf

    • Nick, I guess I would have liked the decision made by people who had lots more experience with microseismic monitoring of shale gas resource plays. The fact remains that there have been over 2 million frackjobs and there hasn’t yet been injury or damage to property. The most significant events occurred in the foothills of the Canadian rockies – one would expect such areas to be more seismically active than the area around PNR, which is pretty tectonically relaxed. BTW – I do respect the authors of the report but their views are certainly not supported by many other experts in microseismic. I also worry that one author seems to let his ego do the talking!

          • David – thanks. Unfortunately, due to the fact that our views disagree with those against fracking, we will be dismissed as industry-paid trolls. Most people won’t bother to take the effort to find out what fantastic work Nick has done to help us move towards a low carbon economy. It’s sad that he would have gained more appreciation from many involved in this debate if he’d have glued his hands to a window in London as oppose to spending over 30 years of his life dedicated to making a real difference to society.

            • Nick supports fossil fuels, in particular fracking; he has, in effect, spend 30 years promoting pollution of the planet.

            • Judith, I have accidentally glued my fingers when preparing microscope slides, in the middle of the night, helping an operator to know quickly as to which horizon their drill bit has penetrated. But such drama is of no interest to the shallow level of populist reporting that dominates modern media in parts of the western world (some Canadian newspapers, in my experience are a refreshing reminder of good journalism & go against the dumbing down trend)

      • This last post Judith has just dropped you off the cliff….you ask ‘is John Powney aware that DECC or EA do not have significant expertise in seismicity’ – does applied chemistry make you an expert in shale and seismicity these days?

        • The fact that I did a PhD in chemistry many years ago strangely doesn’t mean that I can’t pick up other subjects. For the last 20 years I’ve consulted on environmental aspects associated with the oil and gas industry. I’m also fortunate enough to have a partner who specializes in seismology. The fact that my PhD was in mathematical aspects of chemical reactions with rocks and soils makes it pretty easy for me to pick up the geophysical aspects. So Sherwulfe – what makes you think that you’re so qualified to discuss this subject?

          • ‘Sherwulfe – what makes you think that you’re so qualified to discuss this subject?’ – read it again JG, I but posed a question……thanks for the answer. I have what I need.

            I would not assume because you have letters after your name that you are by any stretch an expert; note that many who post here are way above your perception of intelligence 🙂

            • Nicky, see earlier post.
              What is the glory in a career that has supported the destruction of the planet? [This is a question* by the way, not an ebay bid]…
              Why do some people put a career over billions of lives? [Another question*]
              * Just to clarify I am not ‘snipping’ by any other interpretation…

            • Sherwulfe – without hydrocarbons many more people would have died earlier from poverty, starvation and ill health. And you wouln’t be blogging..

            • You wouldn’t do too well without hydrogen and carbon either. Hydrocarbons are just as natural as air, water and food…..

            • We are not debating what is natural Paul but what is killing the planet. I wonder how the hell we survived the 30,000 years before oil and gas? Scary for some I know……

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