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View Diary: Drill Baby Drill! The Fracking Bubble is Bursting! (135 comments)

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  •  Shale formations cover a vast area (29+ / 0-)

    Shale gas production will be a significant source of gas for many years and vast areas of land will be affected. You have written an excellent diary, strongly recommended, but don't forget how much shale there is in north America.

    Fracking pollution has caused major damage to air and water quality. It has created many pits and ponds of toxic waste. If we continue to allow fracking as it is practiced today a vast area of America will be badly polluted.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 05:51:27 AM PDT

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    •  Yep, there's a lot of shale, but I'm not sure (8+ / 0-)

      I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that the economics and the mess is going to catch up with investors.  It's the Goldman Sachs method of screwing your investors, applied to Natural Gas investors.  These investors were told there's a gazillion cubic feet of gas out there and you're going to make huge profits.  Now their finding out the well production drops off rapidly so you've got to drill another expensive well, and you're left with a mess that hopefully Democratic administrations are going to eventually make you pay to clean up.

      •  Part of the risk assessment to investors are the (12+ / 0-)

        protests over the enormous pollution and the danger to our air and water.

        ❧To thine ownself be true

        by Agathena on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 06:04:45 AM PDT

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      •  Compared to other oil/gas developments... (1+ / 0-)
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        ....US Shale gas is really quite cheap.  I doubt anyone but the smaller companies are running into significant trouble because of this.

      •  I really found this a bizarre diary. (12+ / 0-)

        Frakking for shale gas has almost as much to do with frakking for oil in the Bakken as fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest has to do with fishing for shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico.

        The Bakken is a very unusual formation.  It is vast in extent but extremely shallow, rarely more than a couple meters thick (from a drilling perspective, that's like trying to hit a crumpled sheet of paper buried a couple meters underground, bank a 90 degree turn, then follow through the center of the sheet of paper with your well) and with extremely low porosity.  For the longest time, its net recoverable reserves were classed at "zero".  Any number greater than zero is, of course, an improvement on "zero".  

        There had been hope that the price for producing oil in the Bakken could come down from the 40-60 dollars a barrel it currently costs.  From the sound of this, they're having trouble doing that in the Montana portions of the plays.  But what, exactly, does oil recovery in a single very unusual formation have to do with fracking in general?

        The Bakken has nothing to do with what's normally called "shale oil".  The Bakken is an unusual formation containing normal oil.  What's generally called "shale oil" uses abundant, easy to get to formations but which contain only unconventional oil.  In fact, it's not oil at all.  It's sort of a proto-oil called "kerogen".  To produce oil, it's either mined or dealt with in-situ, treated with heat to mimic the way oil is normally produced in the crust from kerogen, and then collected and refined.

        In short, it's about as different from producing from the Bakken as physically possible.

        •  google bakken shale oil (1+ / 0-)
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          Sorry, but I'm not sure where you're coming from.

          Here's something about fracking in the Bakken shale.

          •  Rei is giving a geologic analysis (3+ / 0-)
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            PrahaPartizan, katrinka, Mr Robert

            I don't have time to check out the details now but what he says makes sense to me.

            look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

            by FishOutofWater on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 08:40:21 AM PDT

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            •  They're both fracked, they're both in shale dep. (2+ / 0-)
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              MrJersey, caul

              Yes, Kerogen "shale oil' is very different, but that's not at all what we are talking about.  We're talking about the effectiveness of fracking in extracting oil and NG from shales.  The article quoted in the diary is talking about fracking in the Bakken formation, but over on you can find very similar arguments (rapid fall in well production rates) for NG deposits in many of the shales in the East.

              I have to totally disagree with this statement:

              Frakking for shale gas has almost as much to do with frakking for oil in the Bakken as fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest has to do with fishing for shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico.
              and believe it misses the point of the diary completely.
              •  NG Production Graphs (1+ / 0-)
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                I believe that what Rei is asking for are the graphs showing those decline rates for NG wells in the frakked shale formations.  Further, as a community we should also be looking at the decline rates for NG wells drilled in formations which are historically mostly NG producers.  At least that way we could place in perspective the general effectiveness of the frakking production being touted.  That is the information which we all need to know in order to develop an informed opinion.

                Otherwise, simply trying to craft an argument that frakking applications are bad only mirrors the oil and gas industry's ads promoting frakking as the total solution to the nation's energy needs.  That shouldn't be the point of the diary completely.

                "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

                by PrahaPartizan on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 09:59:08 AM PDT

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                •  Here are the curves; (2+ / 0-)
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                  caul, Xavier Onassis EMTP

                  I didn't want to make this diary a technical diary trying to cover everything.  Anyone who visits has seen similar graphs for NG fracked wells, but these particular graphs presented well.

                  This link will show a similar drop off of production for fracked NG wells in the Barnett formation, with a 53% decline in production after 2 years.

                  This link also shows production throughout many of the eastern shale formations, with very similar results.  It certainly seems the problem isn't with whether it's oil or NG, or the particular formation, the problem lies in the fracking technology itself.

                  Fracking, is there really 100 years.

                  •  That wells decline falls into the category of (1+ / 0-)
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                    "no duh".  Who is this supposed to come as a surprise to?  All wells of all types decline over time.  The less porous the reservoir, in general, the faster they decline; hence in such formations, the goal is rapid payoff of your drilling cost.  And I think this graph says it all.

                    Do remember when you talk about, say, an oil well producing 400 barrels a day and then declining to a "mere" 10-15 a day, at today's oil prices, that's $13.7 million dollars per year declining to a "mere" $340k-$515k per year.

                    •  Boone Pickens Plan Perfectly Exemplified (1+ / 0-)
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                      Those charts pollwatcher provided from Slate display perfectly the plan which was being advocated by T. Boone Pickens a few years back.  It would appear that those natural gas plays give us about 25 years leeway in which to make serious investments in renewable and alternative energy resources.  With some prudence and technical development, we might be able to extend that to 50 years.  That 100 year number most likely would be the outcome if we can roll the dice right for every variable - technology, formation, costs, experience.  We might do better to use this as an opportunity to call for a comprehensive energy program which calls for a Manhattan Project like effort involving both NG and renewables, because concentrating on just one to the exclusion of the other is a prescription for national economic disaster.

                      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

                      by PrahaPartizan on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 10:37:01 AM PDT

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                    •  Now you're just denying the data, no thanks n/t (0+ / 0-)
              •  Obviously you disagree with it because you wrote (1+ / 0-)
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                the diary.  But I again must reiterate that the Bakken is a highly unconventional formation not at all representative of formations elsewhere in the world, whether you're talking about conventional oil, conventional gas, shale gas, oil shale, or pretty much anything else.  I know of nowhere else on the planet where people produce from a rock that is both so narrow and so low porosity at such depth yet so vast in extent.  Trying to extrapolate people's experience with the first round of investment in Montanan  oil production from the Bakken shale to "everything produced from fracking, anywhere" is really quite absurd.

              •  Oh, and here's the graph... (1+ / 0-)
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                that you neglected to link.

                Really, even with that, though, still how can you draw any conclusions?  You don't know how much money was pumped into what locales and in what time periods in order to gauge how effective of a payoff it is.  For all you know, Montana got a giant round of investment in maybe '03-'05, and since then people decided North Dakota is a better investment and pumped their money there instead.  Hey, the production graphs sure would seem to support that.

          •  You're mixing up terms here by assuming all shale (1+ / 0-)
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            is the same.  The Bakken is a "shale" formation, meaning that it's made up of shale rock, hence its full name is the "Bakken Shale".  But it's not that simple.  Oy, looks like we're going to totally have to start at the beginning here.

            Carbon is always being sequestered and released from the crust in various forms.  As mentioned in the previous post, of interest is kerogen, the source material for oil and natural gas.  This is basically long chains of decayed organic matter in sedimentary rock.  Most commonly it is found in shale, which basically means mineralized mud.  Hence shale is generally the source rock for oil and natural gas.

            Shale which still has a large amount of kerogen - aka, has not been "baked" by the Earth, cracking the long chains of carbon - is known as "oil shale".  Some oil shales are so kerogen-rich that they burn.  

            When an oil shale source rock layer is baked under pressure, first tar is is produced, then oil, and onwards with increasing  temperatures and longer times, up to natural gas.  But that is not enough to make an oil or gas reservoir because, well, liquids and gases in high pressure environments leak.  These lead to natural discharges of oil (which decays to tar as it loses its volatiles, and ultimately washes up on beaches and gets buried over time) and natural gas.  Much rarer is that they are captured in what is known as a trap, and this is what petroleum geologists crave.  A trap generally consists of two parts (overlaying the third part, the source rock).  The first part of the trap is the reservoir, which consists of rocks with pore space in which oil or natural gas can exist.  The second part is the cap, an impermeable or poorly-permeable layer of rock overlaying the reservoir.  Beyond this, it must be naturally structured in some sort of approximation of a dome - that is, the hydrocarbons can't just migrate laterally around it.

            The unusual Bakken field is both the source rock and reservoir; its own oil, properly "baked" out, is trapped in itself.  However, it is a really cruddy reservoir; in addition to being very thin, it has incredibly low porosity.  The oil cannot migrate well at all through it.  So to produce from it, you have to first get to this narrow layer, then run numerous lateral pipes through it that aren't far apart from each other (can't just sink a couple wells and pump from the whole formation), and then you have to try to frack and inject solvents and proppants and everything else under the sun to try to open up the reservoir as much as you can.  It's such an unusual reservoir, though, nobody really knows how to produce properly from it.  If there wasn't so danged much oil there, right convenient in the heartland of the US, nobody would bother.

            This is utterly different from "oil shale", which as mentioned above, is shale which has not yet had its kerogen baked out.  I briefly summarized the process for producing oil from oil shale in my previous post.  The direct-mining methods are pretty straightforward, sort of like producing oil from surface bitumen in Alberta.  Much more production potential is from in-situ approaches, however, and this is where nobody can say how the technology will play out on the large scale yet.  The small scale has been going well, however, and I strongly caution people against automatically assuming "new technology = not going to happen".  That's what people said about the Canadian bitumen, and now it's public enemy number one in the environmental movement.  Surface-mined oil shale obviously has no use for fracking.  In-situ oil shale production can use it or not use it depending on the rock properties (if the rock in question already has high porosity, there's no need to frack it).

            •  Your concern is the term "oil shale"? (0+ / 0-)

              Oy, :) obviously you have some geology in your background.  The term "oil shale" is used by the article quoted in the diary.

              I would ask that you look beyond whether that particular term is being used in it's strict geological definition, and look at the fracking technology itself, which is the point of the diary.  The industry has made promises of tremendous increases of cheap oil and gas, because of the advances in fracking technology.  The per well oil production from fracked wells in the Bakken shale formation, disprove these claims.  A few posts above are some graphs showing similar results for NG fracked wells in the Barnett shale formation.

              The economic impact of this rapid production decline from both fracked oil and fracked NG wells will force up the price of these fuels and make both solar and wind much more competitive, which is the point of the diary.

            •  Rei (1+ / 0-)
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              Xavier Onassis EMTP

              Thanks for the great explanation of how this process works. I admit I really knew nothing about it other than it is bad for the environment.

        •  What disturbs me (2+ / 0-)
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          pollwatcher, trueblueliberal

          Is that the Prosperity for America funder from NC, Art Pope, is still pushing for fracking here (North Carolina).

          We're in a Triassic basin with near vertical fault lines.  This is a different formation from the rest of the state.  We have exactly two data points from this unusual geologic area.  So almost no data.  Maximum risk to the environment, as I understand it, not that much NG known to be available.  They're ramming it down out throats despite multiple "torches and pitchforks" town halls.

          No laws or support industry for gas/oil at all, no ability to regulate or enforce, so that's a plus for them.  But they're leasing up land as fast as they go, and they've bought the state legislature to make it happen.  Will they make enough money back to cover the overall investments?  Doesn't seem like it.  Then again they'll have a lot of poisoned land, and complete control over the laws here.

          It's almost like it's an ideological thing rather than a financial one, for the people driving it.

      •  Can't (1+ / 0-)
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        the Kochs finance it themselves?

        •  Sure, but can they make money at it? (1+ / 0-)
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          Xavier Onassis EMTP

          Drilling a well is pretty expensive, and if the production drops off as fast as the graphs indicate, it could take a lot longer to get a good return on their investment.  And if they have to start paying for some of the environmental damage the gazillions of wells are doing, it becomes unprofitable unless the price rises a lot.

    •  I don't see why (2+ / 0-)
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      pollwatcher, katrinka

      we have to resign ourselves to shale for many years.  I hope we're close enough to a social tipping point to put our feet down.

      There's no reason Lee County couldn't become a major manufacturing hub for solar and other technology, with installation jobs galore.

      At some point the powers that be are going to wake up and smell the coffee, that we're getting left in the dust by sticking with big fossil.

    •  Yup, short term wells, long term pollution. n/t (0+ / 0-)

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 04:50:47 PM PDT

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