String out the bunting, blow up the party balloons, lets’ have a knees up, they’ve found shale gas in Lancashire! At last, we could finally be energy independent. Bye bye Saudi, bye bye Mr Putin, we’ve got our own gas thank you kindly, you can all go and get stuffed.
Why has it gone quiet?
Why is everyone looking at me like that? I said we’ve got gas, not I’ve got gas.
So, we’ve found massive new source of energy buried beneath Blackpool, what on earth is wrong with that?
Well, shale gas, for those outside the drill and burn energy bubble, is gas that’s trapped in mashed up rock a few thousand feet below the earth’s surface. All you have to do is drill down 2,742 meters, insert a pipe that will not leak no matter what happens, then pump in a mixture of water and heavy duty chemicals.
Why does it matter that the pipe doesn’t leak.
Oh, nothing really, it’s just a safety feature. Okay, so some tree hugging locals near shale gas drilling facilities in America claimed their wells became contaminated with a bit of explosive gas and chemicals. All fuss and nonsense. So a little bit of gas and toxic chemicals get into the water table, don’t make a fuss.
So, this process of pumping the chemical mixture 2,500 meters underground is called ‘fracking.’ The chemicals are so potent they actually fracture the rock thereby releasing the gas.
I’m trying not to, I’m really trying, no, it’s no good. Frack me! For frack sake! You are fracking joking!
Obviously the chemicals have to come from somewhere and you need a lot, so that’s another quarry and processing plant, probably in Malaysia or somewhere so that doesn’t matter, back to the shale.
So, you pump the chemicals down this special, non leaking pipe, you pump it in under very high pressure and the chemicals frack the hell out of the shale and the gas is released.
Obviously you have to drill another hole which mustn’t leak or gas escapes into the water table and you loose all your investment, but if it all works you pump the gas into pressurized storage tanks, ship it to a power station and then you burn it in a massive boiler which heats water which turns to high pressure steam which is sent through pipes which then spins up a massive turbine which then turns a massive generator and hey presto, you’ve got loads and loads of free electricity.
It’s all so simple and straightforward, what’s not to love?
Before we go into detail regarding the possible negative effects of this slightly desperate end-of-days attempt at extracting the last vestiges of drill and burn energy, lets’ just go back a few years.
When I was a kid I saw films shown at my primary school which explained about the huge oil reserves scientists had found under the North Sea. How Britain was leading the way in extracting this abundant energy, and when North Sea oil and gas comes on line, Britain will be able to power itself for 100 years.
Imagine me and my 12 year old mates watching this film which was made by British Petroleum of course. Really cool looking oil rigs being built in Scotland and towed out to sea by big ships with cranes on, like really massive Meccano kits which stood firm and brave against the elements. We loved it, well I loved it, Vincent Pickering was too busy punching Christopher Parks in the back of the head while Mr Bilsborough wasn’t watching.
That was in the late 1960’s and in the early 70’s the fuel started to flow. One hundred years of oil and gas, that’s what they said, and obviously untold wealth for the nation. ‘We’ll be like Saudi Arabia.’ said my dad, ‘We’ll all be driving around in Rolls Royces burning money for fun.’
If only I’d been able to detect sarcasm at the age of 12.
Now, 40 years later it’s pretty much run out, thankfully some of the skills learnt in building and maintaining the massive infrastructure we put out in the North Sea is coming in very useful in installing off shore wind turbines.
But what happened to the money? I don’t know. Where did the massive profits made by the oil and gas companies end up? I don’t know. Did it buoy up the British government for 40 years? Probably, but most of us didn’t feel it.
Anyway, the oil in the North Sea is a bit rubbish, no good for refining into petrol. That’s not me saying that for effect, a chemist at a massive Pembrokeshire refinery told me that. 'Yeah, north sea oil is a bit rubbish, not like the sweet crude from Saudi Arabia.'
So we flogged most of it cheap on the international market and paid even more money to buy even more oil from some of the most dodgy monarchies and oppressive regimes the human race has ever produced.
But now we’ve found shale gas. Same idea, spend billions exploiting a naturally existing and non renewable fuel source because there are, without doubt, big profits to be made. Don’t worry that it’ll run out after a bit, we need to solve our energy deficit fast, and no one knows how else to do it.
Imagine how much we spent on developing the North Sea oil infrastructure. Trillions of quid over a period of forty years. Imagine if we’d spent that developing and building massive renewable energy sources.
Sub surface tidal turbines the size of a big office block, ( http://www.seageneration.co.uk/ )with wind turbines on top. We’ve started putting wind turbines in our shallow seas but nowhere near enough. Not a 1,000 or 10,000. How about 500,000 100 meter wind turbines, and 5,000 massive underwater tidal turbines which cost literally billions of pounds to construct, install and maintain.
A huge industry employing many thousand of people while at the same time generating, around the clock, come wind or calm, enough energy for this country for, genuinely this time, the next 100 years. No drilling, no burning.
The terrible sad truth is, it could be done. We are all wise and cynical enough to know it won’t, but technically we could power this entire country 10 times over with purely renewable methods. When some bar room bore drones on about wind and tidal just not being reliable enough, he’s talking out of his ill informed or deliberately mis-truthful ass.
It could be done, there are hundreds of very well researched reports made by actual scientists as opposed to PR dipshits hired by traditional drill and burn energy companies sending out endless spin.
Even more frustrating is that the UK is in a unique position to make this possible, we have literally thousands of square miles of shallow water off our coasts which are ideal for this kind of infrastructure. We could be leading the world with our engineering skills and ability in constructing off shore facilities.
What am I saying! We already do lead the world. No one has the long term experience we have in building big metal things that don’t wobble in the middle of the sea
It would and still could transform our country.
Worth checking these out too for more info.