Could our fear of fracking be appeased with CO2 sequestration?

Those related eco-problems? They're not a thing, apparently

A plan to use CO2 to replace the water used in controversial energy technique fracking has been met with a mixed reception by experts contacted by The Register.

New Scientist reported on work done by Andres Clarens and his team at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, to pump CO2 into fracking sites, which could act as a form of carbon sequestration, and so be a better solution than the water currently used.

The story reports that using CO2 would prevent fracking chemicals from contaminating drinking water supplies.

However, Mark Linder from global PR outfit Bell Pottinger, who has worked with a number of oil and shale companies, told The Register: “Fractures don't come close to aquifers. Also there's no evidence at all of fracture contamination."

"Yes, it is possible that casing could burst during a frac, releasing fluid into the aquifer. But this would be extremely rare, and today's frac fluids are simple. In the UK they are required to be non-toxic," he added.

"Subsurface fluid injections associated with geologic carbon storage or hydraulic fracturing are likely to lead to increases in pore pressure that would drive transport into overlying formations," said Clarens.

"We are working to develop a fundamental understanding of how interfacial properties at the gas-brine interface and at the gas-brine-mineral interface could impact buoyancy-driven flow through porous media. Mass transfer between gas (e.g. CO2) and brine and CO2 phase change will mitigate leakage," he added.

However, experts have questioned how useful this is. Richard Davies, a petroleum geologist at Newcastle University in the UK, told the magazine that technique now being talked about was “unnecessary [and] fractures rarely extend past a few hundred metres above the shale reservoir".

Colin Scott, a geologist working on oil rigs and an independent oilfield consultant with 40 years of experience in directional and horizontal drilling, told us that there were some merits, but not from any perceived dangers in fracking.

“It sounds very interesting and the potential is there – we already pump CO2 into wells in the North Sea as a way of disposing of it,” he said.

But he agreed with Davies on the issues around groundwater contamination: “Fracking is done way lower down than aquifers and as long as the casing in the wells is well cemented, no fracking fluid can escape. There is a way of testing the cement 'bond' which is foolproof and verifiable, so the worry is just not there. But as a method of CO2 disposal, it would be great,” he said.

New Scientist reported that Clarens' team has mirrored conditions in the Marcellus shale, the Appalachian Basin site of fracking activity in and around Pennsylvania, encompassing over 100,000 square miles, and the largest source of natural gas in low-permeability shale in the US, with production still growing.

It seems that the team found that half the CO2 injected in the simulation was converted into solid carbonates within a day.

Linder took a different view on the merits: he saw it as one of reassurance and managing perception. "Where does the CO2 come from? It would have to be captured and transported to the site. So this is not an economic behaviour. And the problem it is supposed to prevent is not a problem ... though the perception is there!" he explained.

Hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking", splits rocks thousands of feet below ground using high-pressure liquid, to collect shale gas. The UK recently gave the go-ahead for further exploration of the UK's shale gas reserves. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Chip shortage forces temporary Raspberry Pi 4 price rise for the first time

    Don't worry, only the 2GB model is affected: Increasing by ten bucks to $45

    The price of a 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer is going up $10, and its supply is expected to be capped at seven million devices this year due to the ongoing global chip shortage.

    Demand for components is outstripping manufacturing capacity at the moment; pre-pandemic, assembly lines were being red-lined as cloud giants and others snapped up parts fresh out of the fabs, and the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak really threw a spanner in the works, so to speak, exacerbating the situation.

    Everything from cars to smartphones have felt the effects of supply constraints, and Raspberry Pis, too, it appears. Stock is especially tight for the Raspberry Pi Zero and the 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 models, we're told. As the semiconductor crunch shows no signs of letting up, the Raspberry Pi project is going to bump up the price for one particular model.

    Continue reading
  • Uncle Sam to clip wings of Pegasus-like spyware – sorry, 'intrusion software' – with proposed export controls

    Surveillance tech faces trade limits as America syncs policy with treaty obligations

    More than six years after proposing export restrictions on "intrusion software," the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has formulated a rule that it believes balances the latitude required to investigate cyber threats with the need to limit dangerous code.

    The BIS on Wednesday announced an interim final rule that defines when an export license will be required to distribute what is basically commercial spyware, in order to align US policy with the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime.

    The rule [PDF] – which spans 65 pages – aims to prevent the distribution of surveillance tools, like NSO Group's Pegasus, to countries subject to arms controls, like China and Russia, while allowing legitimate security research and transactions to continue. Made available for public comment over the next 45 days, the rule is scheduled to be finalized in 90 days.

    Continue reading
  • Global IT spending to hit $4.5 trillion in 2022, says Gartner

    The future's bright, and expensive

    Corporate technology soothsayer Gartner is forecasting worldwide IT spending will hit $4.5tr in 2022, up 5.5 per cent from 2021.

    The strongest growth is set to come from enterprise software, which the analyst firm expects to increase by 11.5 per cent in 2022 to reach a global spending level of £670bn. Growth has fallen slightly, though. In 2021 it was 13.6 per cent for this market segment. The increase was driven by infrastructure software spending, which outpaced application software spending.

    The largest chunk of IT spending is set to remain communication services, which will reach £1.48tr next year, after modest growth of 2.1 per cent. The next largest category is IT services, which is set to grow by 8.9 per cent to reach $1.29tr over the next year, according to the analysts.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021