What the Frack

The first video is the hydraulic fracturing process according to the gas and oil companies who are doing it.  Basically they drill a mile below the surface, which is far, far below the water source. Once the pipe is passed the water, they coat the steel pipe with cement. Additional cases may cemented to the pipe to prevent leakage. I’m not exactly sure what kind of logic these people are using, but I just want to point out that if you walk down a sidewalk, you’re bound to see more than a few cracks in it and those cracks are found on something just walk or bike on. What kind of permanent solution will cement  be. But it’s just my thought. Traditional drilling stops at what they call ‘the kick off point’. At this point, hydraulic fracturing curves to go horizontal. This gives fractures the ability to drill several sites from one pad. The drill pipe is then removed and replaced with casing, which is cemented in place. Something they call a perforating gun will go off to fracture the first of the rock and put hole in the casing and interestingly the cement to let the gas through. Next they pump a ‘few’ chemicals into the ground. They say a few and then have a picture of 30 different pumps, but to be fair the ‘few’ chemicals only make up .5 percent of the hydraulic formula. But again, to be fair, it would be well to consider that 3 million to 5 million gallons of water are pumped into these sites.  The ‘few’ chemicals are mainly for lubrication and keeping the rocks apart to let the gas come through. They plug that section of the pipe and use the perforating gun again to fracture the next portion of the rock. They repeat this for however long, sometimes for several miles. Once they’re done they cement the pipes, remove their pad and according to this video leave it just as they found it or better. I guess this is how they define better. There is a clear cut off point from where they fracked and what they left alone.

http://money.cnn.com/2011/12/09/news/economy/epa_fracking_wyoming/index.htm

Or I guess I would take the scenic route just to be able to see this beautiful landscape also.

http://www.uswateralliance.org/tag/hydro-fracking/

The water with the ‘few’ chemicals either gets recycled at another site or gets disposed according to U.S. regulations.

 

(This video doesn’t have sound.)

This video suggests the process presents more problems than it really solves. This video shares my concern about the cement not being the more surefire answer to keeping the toxins out of the ground water. It also points out that when the flowback, the water with the ‘few’ chemicals that has to be recycled or properly disposed of, is stored they put it in lined pits. These lined pits, shockingly, aren’t always lined properly and the toxic water leaks to the ground water.

Here is a web site of all the ‘few’ chemicals they use in the fracking solutions, what they are used for and other things that the chemicals are found in.

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Alternative Engery: Biogas

Biogas, also known as biomenthane, swamp gas, landfill gas, or digester gas, is produced through the anaerobic digestion (fermentation) of decaying plant or animal matter. It is the naturally occurring emission of bacteria that thrive without oxygen, and occurs in three steps. First is the decomposition, or hydrolysis, of the biodegradable material into molecules such as sugars. Next, these molecules are converted into acids. Lastly, the acids are converted into biogas. Anaerobic digesters harness the bacteria’s natural processes to capture and utilize the biogas, all in a safe, controlled environment.

Biogas can be produced from a wide variety of available organic materials and wastes, including sewage sludge, animal manure, municipal/industrial organic waste, stillage from ethanol production, crop residues, and specially grown energy crops.

Normally, they take these products and make fertilizer and the gas is just byproduct that is released. But if we obtain the fuel first, we can prevent runoff and methane emissions. Then the residue created by the burning of biogas can be dried and used as fertilizer.

http://www.lowimpact.org/factsheet_biogas.htm

Landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. Methane can be captured from landfills and used to produce biogas. Methane gas collection is practical for landfills at least 40 feet deep with at least 1 million tons of waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 8,200 U.S. dairy and swine operations could support biogas recovery systems with the potential to generate more than 13 million megawatt-hours and displace about 1,670 megawatts of fossil fuel-fired generation collectively per year. Biogas recovery systems are also feasible at some poultry operations.

I love this idea. As gross and unsanitary as it sounds, biogas would be our solution to both our problem of needing a renewable energy and it helps solve our huge waste problem. Before I get too excited, let’s look at the specifics.

Biogas is usually 50% to 80% methane and 20% to 50% carbon dioxide with traces of gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. In contrast, natural gas is usually more than 70% methane with most of the rest being other hydrocarbons (such as propane and butane) and traces of carbon dioxide and other contaminants.

When cars burn gasoline it produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, the main source of urban smog, and unburned hydrocarbons, which is the main source of urban ozone.

Carbon is also a problem. When it burns, it turns into lots of carbon dioxide gas. Gasoline is mostly carbon by weight, so a gallon of gas might release 5 to 6 pounds (2.5 kg) of carbon into the atmosphere. The U.S. is releasing roughly 2 billion pounds of carbon into the atmosphere each day.

www.science.howstuffworks.com/gasoline.htm

Compressed biogas (CBG) is the most climate friendly of more than 70 different fuels and is considered to be CO2 neutral.

And since the conversion process in the digester is anaerobic (it occurs in the absence of oxygen), it destroys most of the pathogens present in dung and waste, thereby reducing the potential for infections like dysentery and enteritis.

The burning of traditional fuels like dung cakes or wood (this article was written about India. That is why they say dung is a traditional fuel) releases high levels of carbon monoxide, suspended particulates, hydrocarbons, and often, contaminants like sulfur oxides. Because it is a gas, biogas burns much more efficiently than these solid fuels. It leaves very few contaminants, although it is true that biogas releases small quantities of sulfur oxides. Biogas offers perhaps the most environmentally benign method for tapping the solar energy stored in bio-mass. It’s a renewable and decentralized alternative to the other methane-based fuel, natural gas, which is commonly used in cities.

Methane, which I talked about in my landfill effects post, is explosive if it isn’t burned. (I saw this when I was working on my summer class project. My video was already way too long, so I didn’t add the stuff about methane and leachate, but here is a picture).

Methane

Sorry about the poor picture quality, but that small flame in mid-left side of the picture is the burning methane. It’s bigger in real life, but still pretty cool.

This stuff could be used, but usually it is just burned, so it’s just wasted.

Biogas reduces emissions by preventing methane release in the atmosphere. Methane is 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. It also saves money because it means that landfills don’t have to worry about complying with EPA combustion requirements. Producing biogas through anaerobic digestion reduces landfill waste and odors, produces nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer, and requires less land than aerobic composting.

http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/faculty/hodgson/Courses/so191/SouthAsReadings/IndiaEnergySuccess.html

http://www.bioprocesscontrol.com/templates/standard.aspx?pageId=34

http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/emerging_biogas.html

As far as cons go, when it is compared to gas, it doesn’t seem like a bad solution. I didn’t find any talk about animals or habitats being affected, so that’s always good. But there wasn’t a whole of information on this subject, in general, so it may not be popular enough to have a whole lot of research.  If not monitored responsibly, some problems could arise though.

Biogas can accumulate under roofs and ceilings. Carbon Monoxide gas can gather in engine exhaust and poorly operating boilers. And hydrogen Sulfide gas, which can collect in the bottom of tanks and pump sumps, can kill almost instantly.

Alternative Energy: Hydro Power 2

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/hydropower-plant5.htm

Yesterday I talked about the basic set up of the hydroelectric powering and gathering system and the future of it. Today I will be talking about the pros and cons of said system.

Pros: Hydropower relies on the water cycle, which is driven by the sun, thus it’s a renewable power source.

Hydropower is generally available as needed; engineers can control the flow of water through the turbines to produce electricity on demand. It produces 7 percent of U.S. energy and 19 percent of world energy.

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html

Hydropower plants provide benefits in addition to clean electricity. Impoundment hydropower creates reservoirs that offer a variety of recreational opportunities, notably fishing, swimming, and boating. Most hydropower installations are required to provide some public access to the reservoir to allow the public to take advantage of these opportunities. Other benefits may include water supply and flood control.

A hydropower project is suggested to have a life of between fifty and one hundred years, and they can quite easily be updated to meet new technological developments. This is also an environmental benefit as there is no need to create additional impacts constructing new projects each time a scientific breakthrough occurs.

 

Cons: Hydropower can impact water quality and flow. Hydropower plants can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water, a problem that is harmful to riparian (riverbank) habitats and is addressed using various aeration techniques, which oxygenate the water. Maintaining minimum flows of water downstream of a hydropower installation is also critical for the survival of riparian habitats.

Hydropower plants can be impacted by drought. When water is not available, the hydropower plants can’t produce electricity.

Fish populations can be impacted if fish cannot migrate upstream past impoundment dams to spawning grounds or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean, but upstream fish passage can be aided using fish ladders or elevators, or by trapping and hauling the fish upstream by truck. (Both those option sound horrible and traumatizing. And the truck thing sounds a pain in the butt. No one is going to want to round a bunch of smelly fish and take them upstream. Besides, there is so many. How are they supposed to get them all?) Downstream fish passage is aided by diverting fish from turbine intakes using screens or racks or even underwater lights and sounds, and by maintaining a minimum spill flow past the turbine.

New hydropower facilities impact the local environment and may compete with other uses for the land. Those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation. Local cultures and historical sites may be impinged upon. Some older hydropower facilities may have historic value, so renovations of these facilities must also be sensitive to such preservation concerns and to impacts on plant and animal life. http://www.envirothonpa.org/documents/19bHydropowerAdvantagesandDisadvantages.pdf

Hydropower involves fewer energy losses during the generation process. In comparison, the transformation of fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal, usually leads to substantial losses in the form of heat. For example, when coal is burned to generate power, two-thirds of its energy is wasted. Water, on the other hand, is used to the last drop as it pushes against the blades of a power station turbine.

Hydropower requires vast quantities of water. The consequences of this are that large quantities are stored and released to generate the energy required. In some instances, entire towns and communities are flooded to create massive scale dams. This not only has negative impacts upon the physical environment, but also significant social impacts. Families can lose their ancestral homes and ancient communities can be torn apart.

Due to alterations in the physical environment as a result of flooding, significant amounts of natural vegetation begin to decompose. This in itself produces greenhouse gas emissions.

A well-known impact is that of the effects upon fish migration and reproduction. Although, in some instances, runs are built to allow fish to continue their breeding cycle.

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/hydropower-profile/