French Government to invest in UK Shale

The headline above has far more basis in reality than recent UK press headlines such as  “Our Dolphins are in danger – from fracking ” or George Osborne’s father-in-law and the secret frackers of Windsor Castle.  Let’s recall how France, as every anti on the planet knows, has banned even exploration with hydraulic fracturing due to the certain danger of the process. President Francois Hollande celebrated Bastille Day, not in celebrating the country of  Descartes, Voltaire, Curie, Geoffroy, Pasteur and a host of others but by repeating junk science 

President Francois Hollande said on Sunday that France would maintain its ban on the exploration for shale gas throughout his five-year term.

“As long as I am president, there were will be no exploration for shale gas,” Hollande said during a Bastille Day interview with top television channels.

He said the fracking technique used to extract shale gas presented too many “risks to groundwater”.

“We can see some consequences in the United States” from the technique, Hollande said.

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Water is life. But so is ammonia

As gas opponents repeat the simple mantra “keep all fossil fuels in the ground”, few of us realise the world fertiliser industry has been putting natural gas  back in the ground for almost a hundred years.  In the UK and North America, one third of gas goes towards electricity production, one third to heat, and one third to industrial processes, the greatest amount of which goes towards fertliser production

Nitrogen fertilizers are often made using the Haber-Bosch process  which uses natural gas (CH4+) for the hydrogen and nitrogen gas (N2) from the air at an elevated temperature and pressure in the presence of a catalyst to form ammonia (NH3) as the end product. Ammonia is used as a feedstock for other nitrogen fertilizers, such as anhydrous ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and urea (CO(NH2)2). 

This from Fertiliser 101 shows the cycle of natural gas to ammonia to everything else:

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Natural gas in transport? Or filthy diesel trash?

Something new from Rudolf Huber, who’s trying to do to the diesel engine what I want to do to coal.  In theory, it should be easier to convince people about the benefits of gas in transportation. Cleaner, cheaper and the only alternative kills thousands of people in the UK alone via air pollution. But who says the environmental debate was logical?

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The reality of shale gas production

 A fundamental misunderstanding in the UK shale debate concerns what the shale gas industry means on the ground. There are a lot of scare stories out there about industrialization of the landscape, but the reality is that the impact would be much more mundane. Far more likely, it could be downright boring. But who wants to hear that narrative.  Since when does boring sell papers

A key point is lost in the UK debate: Why on earth, especially post Balcombe, would there be any incentive for the industry not to use as little surface area as possible? Each well pad is one more planning application. Each well pad also provides one more opportunity for antis to have a festival.  Why don’t No Dash for Gas protest at the other wells being drilled in the UK this summer for example? All of which are at far greater scale than at Balcombe.  If Frack Off are to be believed, punching holes in the earth would be disruptive and dangerous.  Since the press has yet to uncover any unexplained mass disruption, poisoned water, toxic air, earthquakes or damaged wildlife in the UK this summer, a logical inference would be that shale drilling isn’t the horror show some fear. I’m not going to say who and where, apart from it isn’t Cuadrilla Resources. 

Some antis use pictures of US vertical oil fields from over twenty years ago to scare people, but that won’t tell us anything about what shale in Europe will look like whenever we finally get around to it. For that we need up to date information.  Would last Friday do?

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Cornell University on Methane Footprint of shale gas: August 2013

Green purist opponents to shale, quite rightly reject the cherry picking of data by climate change deniers,  but are often only too happy to be selective in their choice of science to support their theories.  A key case surrounds the contention, first proposed in April 2011, of Robert Howarth of Cornell University. This from the BBC

“We have produced the first comprehensive analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas,” said lead author Robert Howarth from Cornell University in Ithaca, US.

“We have used the best available data [and] the conclusion is that shale gas may indeed be quite damaging to global warming, quite likely as bad or worse than coal,” he told BBC News

However, we’ve seen multiple studies that disagree, few of which have made it to the BBC web site and certainly not into the minds of opponents. This from MIT last year was representative of the many studies which came to the opposite conclusion:

While increased efforts need to be made to reduce emissions from the gas industry overall, the production of shale gas has not significantly increased total emissions from the sector,” says Francis O’Sullivan, a researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative and the lead author of the study released this week in Environmental Research Letters.

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Dolphins and Fracking

It may only be August, and there has been strong competition, but an article in the UK Radio Times this week, mentioning fracking and killing dolphins, means we already have a winner in the 2013 most tenuous link to fracking damage claim category. The Radio Times, for perplexed non UK readers, is the official tv guide to BBC Radio and TV programs.

As the name suggests, it has an uncomfortable relationship with the 21st century, as do, if readership demographics are to be believed, many of their readers. The magazine, which doesn’t have a digital version, mashes up occasional good journalism with an inordinate amount of ads for stairlifts, walk in baths and the ugliest mail order clothes in the world. Nevertheless, the RT has a reach of 4.4% of the UK population, who have now been exposed to information that is misinformed at best. It couldn’t possibly be deceptive, as that level of stupidity takes some intelligence.

The print edition seems entirely different from the digital as much as I can make out, which means I have to use scans from this week’s issue. August has been silly season for UK shale in both protesting and media coverage, although there have been some attempts to finally inject some reality into the debate, with the most welcome, if belated, intervention coming from the Prime Minister himself. But much of the the media coverage stems from the media’s desperate attempt to provide “balance”, something Irish comedian Daragh O’Briain has remarked upon:

“Mr NASA guy, you’ve built a new space station.”

They go, “That’s very interesting, But for the sake of balance,

We must now turn to Barry who believes the sky is a carpet painted by God,

What do you think of this space station plan?”

“It’s clearly ridiculous, They’re gonna hook it onto the carpet?”

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The top 3 challenges of shale gas

We often hear, especially in the UK where shale is so new to so many, that shale is an unstudied, and thus inherently risky proposition. That’s despite a decade of modern shale, several decades of hydraulic fracturing and many scientific studies. The following is an interesting take on shale gas risks from the Norwegian Organisation DNV who have been managing risk in multiple industrial and energy sectors for 149 years.

Their entire non-commercial model from an organisation based in Norway, a country that epitomises sober serious considered thinking and a passion for the environment is encapsulated in their motto: “Safeguarding Life, Property and the Environment”.

Lars Sørum, Director of Unconventional Gas recently published this and thought it would inform the debate. I think it does. Again, context counts. If DNV don’t buy into the catastrophe story, why should anyone else?

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Leapfrogging – LNG for Africa

This is from our friend Rudolf Huber at

Many African countries are oil producers but they are also beset by frequent power outages. At the same time they flare Natural Gas in huge volumes. Infrastructure to bring that gas to power plants and then further distribute electricity is weak or non existent. That could be a blessing in disguise as the continent is on the verge of an energy revolution.

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Lush Cosmetics and shale gas

The media circus runs unabated while I’m on the other side of the ocean,  proving my point that the lack of competent UK journalists is often a key issue in the UK shale debate.  But yesterday,  I heard about the intrusion into the the debate of Lush Cosmetics, who are  offering financial and reputational backing to Frack-Off, I stirred myself from the beach.

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