Archive for September, 2014


Fracking, Cracking, fracturing………………………………….for GAS!!

Methane is worse than CO2 in trapping heat………. 25 times efficient than CO2 in trapping heat!!! what else. While cracking, being a gas, obviously, it leaks and gets into the atmosphere. Emission of methane is as good as emission of CO2 from coal based power plants. Countries make tall claims….boasting of energy independence…at what cost? Poor rural population who have no knowledge of science believe the scientists and join the bandwagon……”we don’t have to depend on oil any more!! What a ignorant statement and claim! Methane pollutes the groundwater…you can not just stop this gas from leaking into the aquifers……it is a gas after all!. Explorers are not gods to stop the leakage. Are we not aware of “will-o-the-wisp” that is seen by travellers over bogs, swamps or marshes! Common sense……..when water pipes leak why not gas.

What ever you call, fracking, cracking, fracturing… is all the same. Injecting fluids in to shale at high pressure and extract the gas…..natural gas. About 1, 50,000 litres of water mixed with sand and other chemical are required to crack/frack a well….It is reported that in US there are 500 000 such wells….If shale gas can be extracted without any leak, then CO2 can be sequestrated without any leak in the geological formations. No one knows the efficiency of each well…can it sustain for 100 years…50 years..25 years?? …………………….. “but a big part of it is just raw gas that is leaking from the infrastructure”. Their range of 2.3–7.7% loss, with a best guess of 4%, is slightly higher than Cornell’s esti­mate of 2.2–3.8% for shale-gas drilling and production”…..reports “Nature” February 2012 issue. Is it a psychological fear countries create to modulate oil prices from oil rich countries. Let the sensible people to judge.

“Geoffrey Thyne, a petroleum geologist at the University of Wyoming’s Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, has another sug- gestion for sorting out the fracking puzzle: make companies put an easily identifiable chemical tracer into their proprietary fracking fluid mixture. If it turns up where it’s not supposed to, that would be a smoking gun” (Scientific American, Nov. 2011). Methane itself is a tracer!!

There are various sources for methane……..gas and oil fields, biomass, waste management, fermentation, swamps and bogs (that creates ghost fires), paddy fields, animal dung. Like carbon dioxide, this gas is also produced by human activity. Methane stays in the atmosphere for ten years unlike carbon dioxide that takes greater than 100 years. Like carbon dioxide. methane exerts tremendous influence on the Earth’s atmospheric environment. It is detrimental.

A recent press release by JAMSTEC (11, Sept 2014) states the ratio of OH in the northern and southern hemisphere is the same. This calls for a re-look into the chemistry-climate models says this press release. This research was conducted by 15 scientists across the world and was published in Nature, 11 Sept, 2014. This is a boon to those countries advocating extraction of coal-bed methane. A shot in the arm for the proponents…..encouraging  fracking, cracking and fracturing!! After all there are other sources of methane and why blame coal-gas! Why OH? Well it has the ability to buffer the methane/other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Countries like India, where > 70% population live on groundwater in rural India can not afford to get their source contaminated. For developed countries it is different ball game. These countries can move an ice berg to support water problem or make sea a fresh water lake!! Can we do it…even if you can at what cost. Common sense should prevail when you hear such statements.  When natural “leak” of shale gas from Marcellus and Barnett shales has contaminated the groundwater, how can we expect or infer that fracking can not contaminate the groundwater? Taking small population of samples  to address a larger, rather regional issue, such as groundwater contamination by shale gas, as has been reported in a recent publication, is not correct. If leaking of shale gas into shallow aquifer can be arrested, then it is easy too to pump CO2 in to confined sandstone formation. Problems should be measured with the same logic and not by convenience. Let us not be carried away by big propaganda and new reports. Let us come to basics/fundamental and judge the reality. when gas-hydrates were discovered decades back there was an euphoria……gradually died. Gas-hydrate do exists but technology to extract at a cost lower than the current unit cost of electricity yet to be evolved. Then and now oil and coal are at the top of the ladder!!!. Fracking and cracking will be in the news for some time from now. Oil rich countries will rule the roost for years without fear….for sure.



IGA recently released ” Geothermal Exploration Best Practices” that forms a guide book for many countries involved in geothermal exploration. This guide book was prepared for IFC ( World Bank group) by the leading geothermal exploration company “GeothermEx” and the ownership of the book was transferred recently to IGA Service GmbH through IGA Board. Broadly this guide book is prepared in line with the ESMAP of the World Bank.

The book recommends a seven phase development process for geothermal resources although several countries have less than seven process as these countries have mastered this process for the last several decades. The guide book explains each phase in detail, thus bringing the right process of development, especially in countries that have joined the geothermal group in recent times.

In a recent paper published in “Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews” 2014, top fifteen countries that are generating geothermal energy and the CO2 savings from these countries are listed. The amount of CO2 savings through direct application varies from 1.9 billion kg (Finland) to 10.28 billion kg (Sweden). Surprisingly both the countries have no surface geothermal manifestation but the savings are from GHPs! In the same paper levalized costs (capital to unit cost) of conventional and renewable energy power systems are compared. Geothermal stands out!! Oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, and UAE are looking at renewables to reduce CO2 emissions that is going touch 750 billion Gg by 2020!!. The World Geothermal Congress is round the corner and new data and new technologies will emerge and the total electricity generated through geothermal will be revised. The information is going to be very encouraging and interesting.

In the recent past, due to IPCC mandate, several players claimed to have develop geothermal energy resources evaluation expertise, proposed several projects seeking govt. support for geothermal development. This is true especially in developing countries that have entering in to geothermal development activities. India is one such country where, based on initial reconnoitory reports conducted by national organizations in collaboration with international organizations like UNDP, several companies with no expertise in geothermal, gave tall claims on resource availability. The reconnoitory data was widely accepted till a Indo-Italian bilateral project jointly carried out by IITB and CNR ( Italian Academy of Science) conducted a detailed survey on all the geothermal provinces of India and brought out high quality strong data base on the chemistry of thermal waters and thermal gases of the above provinces and published in reputed international journals and discussed the same in the World geothermal Congresses since 1995. The data has been transferred to M/S GeoSyndicate Power Pvt. Ltd. the company incubated in IIT and now became an independent company based in Mumbai.

The Indo-Italian project followed the guide lines prescribed in the IGA guide book. In Indian literature several numbers have been published related to the potential that has been refuted because the publication lack of sound scientific basis. The heat flow values published during the rconnoitaey survey was not based on bore hole observation!! These data are now revised based on strong data based on bore holes and the values were published in a highly reputed international journals. Heat flow, thermal gradient, water flow in the wells/springs and aquifer parameters are required to estimate the geothermal potential of a province and site that later needs to be supported by exploratory drill holes. With out such investigation the results will be dubious. The stages in establishing a geothermal power plant are 1) Preliminary Survey, 2) Exploration, 3) Test drilling, 4) Project review and planning, 5) Field development 6) Power plant construction and 7) Commissioning and operation. This is like any other exploration methods. IGA is striving hard to bring out documents that will help geothermal scientists and engineers to establish a sound resource base based on strong data base.