"Fracking: The New Energy Rush" as seen in fracademia

Social, legal and health issues related to air and water toxic pollution in Australia.

"Fracking: The New Energy Rush" as seen in fracademia

Postby HVPA_research » Wed Apr 30, 2014 11:37 pm


Last Sunday night, 27 April 2014, SBS ONE aired this almost a year old BBC documentary about the American shale gas rush

Fracking: The New Energy Rush

Geologist Iain Stewart investigates a new and controversial energy rush for the natural shale gas found deep underground. This new supply has slashed the price of electricity, kick started a renaissance in manufacturing and driven down carbon emissions. Getting it out of the ground involves hydraulic fracturing - or fracking. Iain travels to America to find to find out what it is, why it is a potential game changer and what we can learn from the US experience. He meets some of the people who have become rich from fracking as well as the communities worried about the risks

The program was quite popular in the UK and widely reviewed in both the printed and social media - see e.g. [url][1][/url], [url][2][/url], [url][3][/url], [url][4][/url]. Like the original documentary, most of these reviews repeated uncritically the widely optimistic propaganda line of the gas industry and, at the same time were rather skeptical about any downsides of this new form of a gold rush. This is not unexpected and we usually dismiss the bias. However, the presenter this was Professor Iain Stewart, a highly respectable scientist and a darling of the Guardian-reading BBC TV audiences. He was positively gushing about the beauty of the hydraulic fracturing and about what great it is going to bring to humanity. Yet, as someone from the ground zero who may be directly and personally exposed to the harmful potential of the uncontrolled coal and gas mining expansion, I must say that he is wrong. He is missing huge parts of the picture. Like most residents of the comfortable city offices he completely ignored the social aspects and largely ignored the human health aspects of the unconventional gas mining.

However, before going into the downsides of the gas rush, I should first mention what I liked and found interesting in the documentary. First, there was a great visual of a fracking setup on a top of a Marcellus shale gas well. This unbelievably messy tangle of tankers, pumps and pipes apparently costs over 30 million dollars and a couple million dollars for a single frack. Obviously, there must be also a great potential for toxic leaks, and malfunctions. Then there was a great scanning electron microscope image of a thin section of shale showing how tiny the voids where the methane gas is actually stored.The matrix of the shale rocks must be really shattered by fracking to release these tiny amounts and combine them into commercial gas quantities. Finally there was a demonstration of the micro-seismic sound imaging process that allows to monitor fracking in real time. Even the opponents of fracking must be impressed by this technology.
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