The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Using Procedures to Reduce Risk in Shale Gas

Graham Marshall - Thursday, January 19, 2017

The anti-shale gas extremists in the UK and elsewhere like to promote the notion that the Shale Gas industry is unregulated and out of control.

In reality, of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Like all long-term established industries - remember - Shale Gas and Oil has been around since the 1940s; the industry uses a range of standard and accepted techniques to reduce risk to a level as low as reasonably practicable and in line with Government Regulations and community demands.

One area of control that is standard in the Shale Gas sector relates to the use of written Procedures.

Procedures not only show workers how to undertake given tasks in a safe manner; they also help to demonstrate HOW any company is complying with the Health, Safety and Environmental legislation.

Here are just some examples of the massive range of Procedures, Guidelines and Standard Work Practices that are used to manage and minimize risk within the shale gas sector.



Prices Surge When Frac Company's Come to Town

Graham Marshall - Monday, September 07, 2015

The Real Story of Home Prices & Frac

Anti-frac activists make many claims about the harmful consequences of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation ("frac").

One of the most oft-heard claims is used to scare home-owners that the value of their real estate will fall if frac is allowed to go ahead in their locality.

But is that claim true?

Evidence from the Bakken shale play in North Dakota paints an entirely different picture for home-owners to consider.

In fact, the evidence is unambiguous in demonstrating that when Frac comes to town, the price of real-estate surges; leaving property owners far richer than ever before!

Here are the graphs showing real estate sales and prices in Tioga, Minot, Williston and Watford City for the 5 years from 2009-2014.

Those four towns in Western North Dakota are the centre of the Bakken unconventional oil field, the largest fracking play in America.

And as you can clearly see, home prices surged between $100,000 and almost $200,000 over five years across the four towns in the centre of the Bakken.

Not a bad rate of real estate return in my book!

In fact, the only downside to the Frac boom in ND is that workers who want to move to the State will find it tough to get on the property ladder because the price of real estate has RISEN so much.

It's exactly the opposite problem to what the eco-activists are claiming! How wrong can they be?


How to Control Surface Spills on Unconventional Gas Wells

Graham Marshall - Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'm fortunate to work with some very bright people who care passionately about protecting our environment; and at the same time, meet our community energy needs through the exploration and production (E+P) of unconventional hydrocarbons in the form of clean-burning gas.

So it is particularly annoying to have a rat-bag group of NIMBY protesters telling outright lies to the community about our industry's so-called pollution risk to soils, ground water, and health.

I am proud to work in the unconventional energy business - as an Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) specialist - with a very real focus on absolute minimization of risk in our business.

The safety of our people, and the protection of our environment are paramount values amongst the people with whom I work.

Having said all that, one of the common lies told  by opponents of Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation ("frac") is that spills of chemicals on the surface will pollute ground water for thousands of years, and cause untold adverse health problems for local people.

Let me share with you some photographs of the simple, yet effective ways in which we aim for "Zero Loss of Primary Containment" (0 LOPC).

It all starts with the way we construct the drilling location at the start of the Frac process.

As you can see in the picture above, we make a very large non-porous impermeable membrane that covers the whole of the frac-location before work begins.  The impermeable layer is designed to contain any liquid spills and allow time for a Vac-truck to be called to location to suck up the spill before it gets beyond the containment barrier.

Of course, the impermeable barrier is just one of several "layers of protection" that we ensure are being used before the frac begins.  The first layer of protection is to make sure that primary containment of any liquids is always sound.

By primary containment, I mean things like the actual fuel-tanks on generators, or the hoses on engines.  These items of equipment are frequently checked to make sure they are able to contain liquids within the equipment.  But where possible, we used secondary containment (often called "paddling pools" or "duck ponds")  to surround any equipment that contains its own liquid sources (e.g., fuel tanks, light plant, etc).  The paddling pool is the first line of defence if a spill does occur.

So, contrary to the lies of the anti-frac brigade, we make enormous effort to ensure that spills and leaks from primary containment are prevenented.

But a significant part of our risk management efforts is to ensure we have plans in place to ensure that spills which do occur, do not get beyond the secondary containment of the paddling pools or the tertiary containment of the location liner.

Finally, if that fails, we have contingency plans in place which ensure a rapid clean-up is put in place.  This  ensures that all contaminated soil is either treated on location, or removed for treatment at an approved waste facility.

Taken together, the prevention controls and the emergency mitigation and recovery controls I have outlined above mean that there is zero-risk to the earth where we frac; zero risk to the water-table directly below frac locations; and zero risk to community health in the local community in the areas where we work.

Please don't believe the lies of the rat-bags who oppose our drive to create energy-security, cheaper sources of energy, and more high-paying jobs for local people.

There is another side to the story which the Frac-free groups won't tell you.

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.


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.

Well done to Santos

Graham Marshall - Friday, March 14, 2014

The Greenies reaction to the news of aquifer contamination - which actually occurred several years ago - at a location recently purchased by Santos in NSW shows how these people try to create a climate of fear around low-risk and low-impact events.

In response to the leak, NSW Labor put out a press release stating that: “The O’Farrell Government’s Memorandum of Understanding with Santos to fast track the approval process for Coal Seam Gas mining in the Pilliga forest should be torn up in light of revelations of contamination of the water aquifer.”

And the Greens exclaimed that this event meant it was "game over for coal seam gas”.

Which is, of course, their ultimate aim to achieve.

Many environmental groups have also leapt on the bandwagon to justify their opposition to Coal Seam Gas (CSG).

But what actually happened - and more importantly - what is the risk?

Several years ago a retaining dam was constructed in the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri, to hold produced water extracted from wells drilled in the search for CSG.

The dam was not lined properly and it leaked.

The leaking water then entered an aquifer.

According to the NSW EPA, the contaminated aquifer - being inside the Pilliga forest - was not used for livestock, crop irrigation or human consumption.

But the leaking water contained NORM - Naturally-occurring Radioactive Materials - and other naturally-occurring minerals found in bedrock through which the drill-string passed (e.g., lead, arsenic and barium).

Fast forward to a couple of years ago - when Santos purchased the legacy asset from the original owners.

In looking over the asset as part of its due-diligence process (a good way to identify environmental issues so they can be managed properly), Santos themselves discovered the problem with the dam.

You'll recall that the dam was constructed by the prior owner of the operation before Santos acquired it.

Being a good corporate citizen, however, Santos then reported the leaking dam to the EPA.

For whatever legal reason, the NSW EPA fined Santos $1,500 because the dam leak (which occurred prior to Santos' ownership) had contaminated the aquifer.

Maybe fair enough I guess.

But the Greenies jumped on the story and the minor fine to beef-up the talk and transform the issue of NORM into "Uranium" poisoning in drinking water and lead, arsenic, and barium toxicity.

The Greenies know that "Uranium" holds a special place of fear in the human psyche due to its association atomic bombs.

So they'll stoop to any level of fear-mongering in their desperate attempt to convince the Australian population that Santos and the search for CSG is evil.

The reality, in this case, is that a small and relatively low consequence spill, with absolutely low-risk consequence to animal or public health should not be allowed to stand in the way of a billion-dollar industry that creates tens of thousands of jobs for Australians.

And Santos should be congratulated for its environmental practices; firstly discovering the leak, secondly reporting it to the EPA, and finally, in remediating it!

Well done Santos!

2013 Unconventional Resources and Exhibition

Graham Marshall - Monday, October 28, 2013

SPE is hosting a international conference for industry players to discover and learn about the latest technological advancements in unconventional oil and gas.

The 2013 SPE Unconventional Resources Conference and Exhibition will be held at Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Queensland Australia from 11-13 November 2013.

Over 100 papers are expected to be presented in more than 20 technical sessions and e-poster presentations covering:

• Advancements in Petrophysics;

• Delivery of mega-projects;

• Exploration areas and evaluating stimulation effectiveness; and

• New standards for reserves work in practice and on sharing unconventional resources industry experience.

For further information and bookings, telephone 61 7 3308 3000.

Our Natural Advantage Campaign

Graham Marshall - Monday, July 29, 2013

According to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), Australia’s natural gas industry created an estimated 100,000 jobs in 2012.

The energy industry  is also investing more than $200 billion on projects across the Australia

Regardless of the economic benefits and the jobs for Australians, our industry is faced with a long running, organized, and well-resourced green smear campaign.

The aim of these anti-development critics is to stop nation-building resource projects across Australia.

Their campaign here in Australia is based upon misinformation; and worse still it is often unfounded and unchallenged to the point where eco-activism is determining Government policy.

It is putting the future of Australian natural gas development, jobs and local investment at risk.

As such APPEA launched "Our Natural Advantage" - an advertising and information campaign to increase public awareness of and public support for our industry’s natural gas activities.

At the Risk Management Tool Box Pty Ltd, we pledge 100per cent support to the "Our atural Advantage" Campaign.

We ask that you also show your support for our the Australian Energy industry by visiting www.ournaturaladvantage.com.au.

You can sign the petition and help APPEA top defend Australia's natural advantage and secure a brighter future for our country.

Natural gas is at the heart of our Australian way of life.

It heats our homes and powers our kitchens and industries.

We can't afford to lose it.

In support of APPEA.

Anti-fracking Movement Tactics

Graham Marshall - Monday, February 25, 2013

Anti-development eco-mentalist groups in the USA are showing the latest tactic to slow down the development of natural resources for human benefit.  And we're likely to see more of the same moronic action here in Australia.

They're creating  mountains of cardboard boxes of public comments in response to the latest gas-drilling guidelines proposed by New York's environmental agency.

The vast majority of the 204,000 letters that anti-drilling groups submitted to the EPA are the result of social media outreach and meetings at libraries, community centers and churches where organizers would hand out form letters and stamped envelopes.

They use stamped envelopes and sample letters that you just sign and mail to the EPA.

Sensible people with an interest in promoting human welfare through energy- and job-creation should understand and dismiss this pointless tactic as a misrepresentation of actual sentiment and realize it is just another green tactic to stall development by drowning regulators in an ocean of wasted paper.  And government time-wasting over approvals for major projects is bad enough already here in WA.

If nothing else, however, it does demonstrate how the anti-gas drilling movement in New York is able to mobilize people based on fear and scare tactics, and simple down-right lying about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which hasn't even begun in New York state.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said the department has 30 to 40 employees at its offices going through the comments, the majority of which are form letters.

But remember, wile anti-fracking groups produce hundreds of thousands of valueless comments, the gas and oil industry has produced thousands of high-paying jobs.

And we're proud to be part of that!


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