The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

How Can a Fracked Well Fail?

Graham Marshall - Monday, December 08, 2014

Opponents of the drive to create energy self-sufficiency and energy-security in Britain will often call on the alleged threat to drinking water as a reason not to develop British gas resources through the process known as hydraulic fracture stimulation.

Here is a typical example of the frightening propaganda used by opponents of unconventional gas; in this case from the "Frac-free Ryedale" website: "Our drinking water would become contaminated if one of the wells leaks, as they are likely to do over time. It is estimated that one in four wells will leak within five years, and 50% of all wells will leak within 15 years."

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I'd like the folks at Frac-free Ryedale answer two simple questions:

Firstly, how, does one in four wells leak within five years?

Secondly, how do 50% of all wells leak within 15-years?

You see, the problem I have with these claims, is that they are simply nonsense: let me show you how a gas well is constructed to prevent any risk of failure and you can work it out for yourself.

When the drill-rig drills the hole into the ground - anywhere up to a depth of 9,000 - 12,000 feet below the surface, and a further 9,000 - 12,000 feet "lateral" (horizontal), an outermost "conductor casing" is inserted.  This conductor casing is a steel tube which fits into the drill hole.  Surrounding the conductor casing and filling the space between the steel tube and the wall of the drill hole is a cement liner. So this provides the outermost barrier between the inside of the well-bore and the outside rock.

Inside of the conductor casing, another steel liner is then inserted into the bore-hole - called the "surface casing".  The gap between the surface casing and the conductor casing is then filled with another layer of solid cement.  So this provides a second barrier inside the well-bore to help prevent any hydrocarbons escaping from inside the well; and prevent any contaminants from migrating  from the outside rocks.

If that wasn't enough protection, there is then a third steel liner - the intermediate casing - inserted into the well-bore inside of the surface casing.  The gap between the intermediate casing and the surface casing is, once again, filled with hard-setting cement.

So, that is now three layers of steel tubing, and three layers of solid cement between the outside rocks and the inside well bore.

But we're not done with protecting the aquifers just yet; inside those three steel rings and three cement walls, the well completions folks then insert a penultimate barrier - called the Production Casing. Outside the Production Casing is another layer of cement.  Inside of the Production Casing is a gap (called the annulus) and inside the annulus is the final protective barrier inside the well.  This is the Production Tubing.

The Production Tubing is a steel pipe that allows gas to flow from the bottom of the well all the way to the surface. The gas (or oil) stays inside the Production Tubing at all times.

So, as you can see, it is practically impossible for any hydrocarbons to escape through five layers of steel tubing and four layers of reinforcing cement and contaminate groundwater aquifers.

Put quite simply, the claim that 25% of wells will fail within 5 years and 50% will fail within 15 years is nonsense.

Create Jobs in Ryedale

Graham Marshall - Friday, December 05, 2014

It is so sad to see the anti-development brigade targeting the Third Energy proposal to develop an unconventional gas well outside Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

I'd love to see lots of high-paying resource industry jobs created for young people in Ryedale; so our kids can have a brighter future.  After all, the low-paying and seasonal jobs to be found at Flamingo Land, while important to the local economy, are not really going to offer youngsters much of a reason to stay in Ryedale.

Rural depopulation in North Yorkshire has been an ongoing problem for the whole of my life; it even resulted in my young family having to migrate to Australia for better prospects.

North Yorkshire and Ryedale have lost too many people due to lack of local opportunity.

The energy industry offers the chance to reverse this decline, and provide interesting, high-paying careers for local people at the same time.

And the so-called environmental "risk" of hydraulic fracturing - "frac" - is so over-blown by the anti-frac brigade.

It is, quite frankly, utter nonsense!

Yorkshire people have been exploiting our mineral and natural resources wealth from the Moors, North Sea, and Vale of Pickering for thousands of years.

Iron-ore mining in Rosedale, Alum mining and processing at Ravenscar, Jet Mines in Westerdale and elsewhere, and coal pits on the Moors above Farndale: those remnants  all attest to the ways in which our ancestors exploited this land for their benefit.

The Hydraulic Fracturing of shale gas thousands of feet below the surface is just another way in which we can continue to create wealth for the people living in this area.

The only difference is that unconventional gas wells require a lot less surface disruption than iron, alum, jet or coal mines, and are far less polluting than most other local industries.

So let's get fracking!

Here is a brochure from Third Energy which answers many of the questions local people may have about the Hydraulic Fracturing process. 

Disclosure: I do not work for, or own shares in Third Energy. I am a native of the North York Moors, hailing from Castleton.  I have worked as a Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) professional in the international energy industry for 20+ years; and in "unconventional" drilling and completions ("frac") for the last 10-years. I am proud to be working in an industry that is meeting the resource needs of society and providing thousands of high-paying and interesting jobs to people.  I believe, through personal experience, that all EHS and other risks associated with unconventional energy are easily managed using existing technology; and that better solutions will continue to be developed to reduce risk even further in the future. In summary, the benefits to society from exploitation of unconventional sources of energy far outweigh the very insignificant risk posed by use of the technology.


Raymond Condelli Civil & Structural Engineer

Graham Marshall - Thursday, September 18, 2014

The post about my experiences of the professional services delivered by Raymond Condelli Civil & Structural Engineer will appear here shortly.

Beyond Zero Harm: Human Factor Safety

Graham Marshall - Saturday, September 06, 2014
The Beyond Zero Harm: Human Factor Safety Conference is on the 27th - 28th  November 2014, in Melbourne, Australia.

The Conference promises to address the critical safety issues that companies are currently facing. 

It offers a great opportunity to explore practices from leading organisations and to exchange your own experience with your peers. 

By attending this event, you will explore innovative strategies to facilitate your safety processes and implementation on sites to prevent risk taking, to improve human and machinery interaction to reduce injury rates and to invest in people to drive better safety performance. You will learn to develop a specific safety culture that is inclusive and headed toward common goals and establish a practical approach of safety to fill the gap between operational and strategy.

With the distinguished Chairperson, Adam Baldock CEO & Managing Director of the National Safety Council of Australia and featuring expert Presentations by:

+  David Cant General Manager Safety and Environment, Patrick Corporation;

+ John Lodder Regional HSE Director Asia Pacific, Fluor Australia;

+  David Schelbach General Manager Health and Safety, Orica;

+  Elizabeth Tosti Director Health, Safety and Environment, Goodman Fielder;

+  Loren Murray Head of Safety, Pacific Brands;

+  Jillian Hamilton, OHS and Risk Manager, Mobilise;

+  Adrian Rowland Director of Risk and Safety Systems, Tigerair;

+  Glenn Beveridge, Onsite Materials Manager, Origin Energy; and

+  Mark Butler Manager HSE Strategy, Group Health Safety & Environment, Networks NSW.

For further information and the conference brochure, telephone: +61 (2) 9223 2137.

Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Whatever you call it, HazOp, Hazid, PHA, HIR,  or some other name...you'll do it better if you use Think 6 Look 6 to consider all the hazard management issue.  Ask us for help if you require assistance.

Here is this Months Bulletin from the folks at Process Safety Beacon.

Stowaway Risk to Shipping

Graham Marshall - Monday, September 01, 2014

Here is a link to a Marine Safety Forum Safety Alert highlighting the risk of stowaway incidents on ships in port.

Bad Experience with Qatar Airlines

Graham Marshall - Thursday, July 17, 2014

I am flying today in Business Class on Flight QR8 from Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport and it has been my misfortune to discover that Qatar Airlines will not allow my wife enter the Premier Lounge with me as she is only booked in economy.

We've arrived at the airport 3-hours early with the intention of relaxing in the lounge prior to our departure to Australia.

Because of Qatar's short-sided policy on allowing guests to join premium ticket-holders, I'm afraid I cannot recommend Qatar as a good service provider for international business travellers.

Unless there is no other option, I certainly won't be flying with Qatar again.


Safety Program in Ohio

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

 

Risk Tool Box is currently rolling out a safety program to three drilling rigs in the Utica play in Ohio. 

The focus of the program is on improving five key areas of HSE performance.

These five focus topics are use of procedures, better JSAs, improved hazard spotting by rig-crew, housekeeping and PPE compliance.

We're doing a lot of on-site coaching and mentoring and so far, the response from the rig crews is pretty good.

Should we frac in theNorth York Moors?

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

You've probably never heard of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation.

But I expect that you have heard of "frakking" or "frac"?

That's because those folks with a "not for shale" bias have worked out that the word "frakking" sounds nasty and evil.

And they know they're on to a good thing in convincing British people not to develop our Nation's unconventional natural gas resources.

A Question of Paradigms

Now then, when you've got an anti-shale World-view ("paradigm") that resources are finite, and soon to run-out; if that paradigm is confronted by conflicting evidence, you can only do two things.

1   You can alter your World-view to the new reality; or

2   You can try - somehow - to make the new reality fit your World-view.

So after 50+ years of telling us the Malthusian tail that "peak-energy" has passed; and we'll soon run-out of hydrocarbons; those folks with an anti-shale agenda are confronted by the new reality that we've got more natural gas available than ever before.

"How can this be" those folks might ask?

Frakking and Directional Drilling

It is because the two smart techniques of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation (HFS) - "frakking" - and Directional Drilling have allowed for a game-changing transformation of energy recovery.

We can now exploit clean natural gas locked in shale and coal-seams below Britain; and in such vast quantities that even ten-years ago were considered unattainable.

My own paradigm - I'll admit freely - is that smart and clever people, using their brain power are the "Ultimate Resource" in solving all problems.

Think how Alan Turing and the other brilliant British cryptanalyst's broke into Hitler's Enigma codes - seemingly impossible - but achieved by clever people using brain-power!

And I believe that clever people will always discover new and better ways to solve environmental "limits to growth" using human ingenuity.

HFS and Directional Drilling show exactly how the ultimate resource of human ingenuity has, and will continue to succeed in finding and developing new sources of cleaner energy for a brighter future.

That's what I call sustainable development.

Imposing Artificial Limits to Growth

But those folks with an anti-shale agenda have another answer to this new dilemma of boundless unconventional gas.

Because of their depressing paradigm of a World with finite resources, their answer is to call for a moratorium on "frakking"; and to blanket ban the exploitation of new sources of British natural gas.

Only by banning the exploitation of new sources of energy can those folks with an anti-shale agenda selfishly ensure that gas does, in fact, become "finite"; and force reality to match their paradigm.

Using that extreme psychological sleight of hand; they can then force upon us all the reality of dwindling resources to match their depressing view of the World.

The problem, of course, is that the unconventional gas that lies below the surface of Britain is not "finite" in any meaningful way; but if the push to ban its exploitation succeeds, then energy supply will indeed "run-out" over time.

And then we'll all really be stuffed!

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One

Listed below are my own reasons for supporting Britain's drive to exploit our unconventional natural gas resources using HFS and directional drilling.

1.  In order to remain a Sovereign Nation; with the economic, political and social capability to determine our own destiny; it is vital that Britain develops unconventional sources of gas; these will free our Country from the enormous risk posed by a reliance on energy supply from the Russian's.

2.  Unconventional energy sources - shale gas and coal-seam gas (CSG), and to a lesser degree oil - are readily available for exploitation below the British mainland in vast quantities.

3.  Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation (HFS) is not a new technique.  It is a long-established technology with a history of use in the UK, America and Australia going back at least 50-years.

4.  The environmental and worker-safety hazards posed by HFS are well-known and easily managed using current technology and existing hydrocarbon management planning techniques.  And technology will continue to improve in the future; bringing ever safer operations.

5.  When compared to the huge economic and social benefits created by the jobs and investment from unconventional gas, the tiny environmental and worker safety risk posed by HFS is negligible. 

6.  The specific risk to surface-waters and ground-water aquifers - as highlighted by opponents of HFS - is, in fact, negligible.  The risk is also easily managed using current Well drilling, frakking and Well-completions techniques.

7.  Modern directional drilling, when combined with HFS means that Wellhead locations at the surface can be located several miles from the underground fracture zone; meaning the necessary surface infrastructure for each Well can avoid ecologically important lands or urban areas.

8.  The chemicals that are used in the HFS process would typically be found under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom of nearly every home in Britain, and in all hardware stores and most hospitals; meaning they're not dangerous when used properly.

9.  The sand that is used during HFS operations as a "proppant" is either regular silica sand (similar to the sand you'd find at the beach at Whitby) but selected for its purity, specific grain-size, and absolute roundness; or it is a manufactured inert clay ceramic made for ideal size and roundness.

10. When compared to existing coal-powered electricity stations, the use of shale gas and CSG create the opportunity for clean-burning, low-emission electricity generation.

11. The surface "land take" for a typical shale gas or CSG Well is very small; and Wells in production are unobtrusive and not particularly noisy.

12. Contrary to what opponents of unconventional shale gas would say, not a single property in the UK or elsewhere on Planet Earth has ever been damaged by an "Earthquake" resulting from the use of HFS.

13. Again, contrary to the "Not for Shale" Agenda, the jobs and prosperity that the exploitation of new sources of unconventional gas bring to any area means that overall community wealth increases; and local home owners will likely see good increases in property values.

14. All things being equal, the price paid for electricity resulting from "gas to power" projects should become cheaper following our exploitation of unconventional sources of natural gas.

15. Finally, I'd suggest that the wealth generated from the future  exploitation of unconventional gas makes our country more - not less - able to protect our wonderful natural environment and National Parks.

What Should We do?

My own feeling is that local communities around Britain that are smart about unconventional natural gas have an historic chance to band together for real local benefit.

Communities should come out in favour of unconventional gas projects; but demand a better deal for "royalty" payments from the gas-field operators and the Government.

In America, where land-holders own the mineral rights to their properties, the energy businesses have turned thousands of owners and farmers into multi-millionaires through royalty payments.

In Britain, communities and parishes should band together to maximize the payouts coming to the local community with a pro-frakking stand.

Money from royalty payments to local communities could be used for a wide range of community-development initiatives; job creation for young people, libraries, walking and cycling routes, history interpretation, environmental protection schemes - all sorts of projects could be funded from royalty payments from frakked-gas.

It is in everyone's interests for Britain to develop our unconventional natural gas resources using frakking technology.

The downside environmental risk is negligible and easy to manage; and the upside social, economic and political benefits - sustainable development - stand to be enourmous.

Or we can all just sit-by and let the Russian's supply our energy-needs.

As the Ukrainian people have just discovered, we'll need good luck with that one...

Happy April the 1st.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday the 28th April will mark the International Labour Organizations' (ILOs) World Day for Safety and Health at Work which is an integral part of the Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health of the ILO.

The ILO campaign promotes the creation of a global preventative safety and health culture.

The day is designed to promote the global prevention of workplace accidents and diseases.

Also on the 28th April, the world's Trade Union movement holds its International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers.

So the 28th April is also is designed  to honour the memory of victims of workplace accidents and diseases.

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work and the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers serve to raise attention on the impact of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide.

At the Risk Management Toolbox, we encourage all businesses - big and small - to contribute to global efforts to reduce occupational injuries and fatalities.

The ILO theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2014 is "safety and health in the use of hazardous substances at work".

Research shows that somewhere between two and eight per cent of all cancers experienced in the population result from workplace exposure to harmful chemicals.

So on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work - 28th April 2014 - why not organize a specific chemical safety event?

Here are some suggestions:

+   Conduct an audit of the use of hazardous substances in your workplace;

+   Review your chemical register;

+   Check that your Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are in current date for all chemicals on site; or

+   Select a hazardous substance and run a tool-box talk on the possible health effects it may have.


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