Five facts you didn’t know about hydraulic fracturing (fraccing)

If you type the word ‘fraccing’ into Google you will immediately see how complex a topic it is.

The process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping fluid underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release trapped gas.

We thought we’d shed some light on the technique with five top facts and a new video which explains what coal seam gas is, how it is extracted and what some of the challenges are.

Top 5 facts about hydraulic fracturing:

Hydraulic fracturing infographic

Five facts about hydraulic fracturing

  1. Hydraulic fracturing typically takes place a few hundred metres below ground for coal seam gas and up to 4000 metres for shale gas
  2. The technique has been around since the 1940s
  3. In Australia it is used in 100% of shale gas developments and 20-40% of coal seam gas wells
  4. Typically 5 to 30 megalitres of water is used when fraccing a shale gaswell (US figures), and 0.5 to 3 megalitresfor coal seam gas wells
  5. The fluid used in fraccing is approximately 99% water & sand, and 1% chemical additives.

To get a better understanding of coal seam gas and hydraulic fracturing visit our website www.csiro.au/unconventionalgas


CO2 capture and storage – reducing carbon emissions from coal

In Australia we generate 75% of our electricity from coal. This creates a lot of CO2 emissions, with increasing concerns about global warming and climate change.

Dr Paul Feron wants to be able to use the coal without releasing carbon dioxide. He leads a multi-disciplinary team developing cost-effective methods to capture and store CO2.

Paul’s team has built and operated capture pilot plants illustrating that the technology can be retrofitted to coal-fired power plants as well as smelters, kilns and steel works.

He is focused on reducing the cost of the capture process, so that the technology can be taken up widely – not just in Australia, but also in developing countries which depend on coal for their energy supply . So that we can meet the world’s need for energy without adding to CO2 emissions. Hear Paul talk about his work.

Next week the National Carbon Capture and Storage conference is happening at Cockle Bay in Sydney from August 31 to September 3 – visit the website for more information.


Powering Australia using mirrors in the outback

Fresh from creating a world record back in June, we’re taking our solar savvy to the bush.

At a time when electricity demand is falling across much of Australia, the opposite has been true for many mining centres in remote areas, where energy usage has been increasing.

Solar Thermal Research Hub

CSIRO’s solar thermal research hub in Newcastle, New South Wales.

These regions enjoy some of the bluest skies in the world, making them ideal for the use of solar thermal technology.

The problem is that at the moment the cost is too high.

Solar-thermal tower technology uses many mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun, concentrating its energy by reflecting light towards a receiver fixed on top of a tower. However conventional heliostats are expensive to install in remote areas due to the large number of components that need to be assembled on site, leading to higher electricity costs.

Electricity peak demand

Infographic explaining peak demand electricity.

Until now.

By changing the way heliostats are manufactured and controlled, our solar scientists are aiming to avoid the high cost of installation and maintenance in remote areas, providing an affordable renewable energy solution for the Aussie outback.

But that’s only part of the story.

We’re also working to improve the other components of the overall parts of the solar thermal system such as receivers, turbines and, perhaps most importantly, storage. Thermal energy can be stored relatively cheaply compared to some other technologies, so there is great potential for large scale power generation regardless of when the sun is shining.

Solar electricity can be transported through the grid from our country’s sunniest areas into cities and suburbs, and by making use of storage this can happen at the times when demand (and prices) are highest. This can have a positive impact on electricity prices by reducing peak demand caused by the use of air-conditioners on hot days.

To find out more about our solar thermal research, check out our website.

This three-year heliostat project is supported through $1 million of funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). CSIRO will work in partnership with Diver Consolidated Industries and RioGlass Solar on the project.

Media contact: Eamonn Bermingham, telephone: 08 6436 8627 or email: eamonn.bermingham@csiro.au


Sorry Nanna: Study focuses on draughts those snakes can’t keep out

As much as we love those draught-busting door snakes our nannas knit, it is safe to say they aren’t the most scientific solution when it comes to stopping draughts coming through windows or doors. But in the spirit of keeping wintry draughts out, we are launching Australia’s first study of air leakiness in Australian homes.

Door snake

Door snake, just like nanna used it knit. Flickr/The Bunny Maker

 

The aim is to create a snapshot of the energy efficiency of  newer homes in different Australian cities.  The study will assess 140 homes in capital cities across Australia. Volunteers are being sought to take part in the study which will focus on seals around doors and windows and insulation quality.

Energy efficiency experts will conduct a blower door test to assess the air tightness of the building  and carry out an insulation inspection using thermal imaging of each home to identify hotspots for heat loss/gain.

A blower door test involves attaching a sealed frame containing a fan into one exterior door and closing all other external doors and windows. The fan can raise and lower the air pressure inside the house. This causes air to flow in through all unsealed cracks and openings and the rate of air movement through the house can be measured.

The study, being conducted on behalf of the Department of Industry, will focus on homes less than four years old. Home owners who volunteer to take part will be given a report on their home’s air tightness and insulation quality and a copy of the CSIRO Home Energy Saving Handbook.

Volunteers are being sought in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Perth and Sydney. Data has already been collected on homes in Melbourne and Canberra. You can register your interest in taking part here.


Coal seam gas emissions lower than US: first Australian study

The methane-detecting four-wheel-drive, measuring emissions around Queensland and NSW coal seam gas wells. Tests were also done upwind of each site to avoid cows or other methane sources skewing the results. CSIRO, CC BY-SA

The methane-detecting four-wheel-drive, measuring emissions around Queensland and NSW coal seam gas wells. Tests were also done upwind of each site to avoid cows or other methane sources skewing the results.

By Damian Barrett and Stuart Day

One of the most common questions Australians ask about coal seam gas is whether the gas wells leak – and if so, how much?

In the first Australian study of its kind, new CSIRO research now gives an indication of how much those “fugitive emissions” might be, and how we can start to reduce them.

Commissioned by the federal Department of the Environment and now published on its website, the pilot study measured emissions around 43 coal seam gas production wells – six in New South Wales and 37 in Queensland – out of the more than 5000 wells currently operating around Australia. The results reveal that:

  • nearly all of the 43 wells tested showed some fugitive emissions;
  • the emissions rates were very low (in most cases less than 3 grams of methane per minute – equivalent to methane emissions from around 30 cows);
  • in many cases, those emissions could be reduced or even stopped entirely; and
  • the average measured levels from the Australian wells were 20 times lower than reported in a study of fugitive emissions from US unconventional gas sites, published last year in the leading international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

In Australia, fugitive emissions from coal mining, oil and gas production account for about 8% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

From the latest report on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, published by the federal Department of the Environment in April this year. Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2013. Click to enlarge

From the latest report on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, published by the federal Department of the Environment in April this year. Click to enlarge

Although those fugitive emissions are estimated and reported under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, there has often been a high degree of uncertainty associated with these estimates in Australia – particularly from coal seam gas production.

That’s why this new research is important, as it offers a first indication of fugitive emissions from coal seam gas under Australian conditions.

Pressure regulator

The report found a particular type of pressure regulator installed at many wells was a common source of methane leakage.

The report’s results

Our new report, Field Measurements of Fugitive Emissions from Equipment and Well Casings in Australian Coal Seam Gas Production Facilities, shows that of the 43 wells studied, three had no detectable leaks.

Of the rest, 37 wells emitted less than 3 grams of methane per minute, and 19 of those showed very low emission of less than 0.5 grams of methane per minute.

However, at a few wells (6 of the 43) much higher emissions rates were detected, with one well registering emissions 15 times higher than the study average. That was found to be mainly due to methane discharging from a vent on a water line.

On closer scrutiny, some of the leaks were due to faulty seals on equipment and pumps, which could be easily fixed, while other emissions were associated with exhaust from gas-fuelled engines used to power water pumps that are not regarded as “fugitive” emissions.

We tested for emissions using a four-wheel-drive fitted with a methane analyser. The car made several passes downwind from the well to measure total emissions emanating from the site.

To ensure that other potential methane sources, such as cattle, were not inadvertently included, similar measurements were made upwind of each test site. We also took a series of measurements at each well to locate sources and measure emission rates.

The methane-detecting 4WD and its equipment

The methane-detecting 4WD and its equipment

Why worry about fugitive emissions?

Fugitive emissions occur when methane escapes from production facilities, wells, pipes, compressors and other equipment associated with coal mining or natural gas extraction. Other human induced methane emissions occur through grazing of domestic stock, agricultural production and from landfills.

In nature, methane is released from geological sources and biological processes occurring in wetlands, swamps, rivers and dams. About 15% of human emissions of methane are derived from fossil fuels.

While burning gas for energy has lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to other fossil fuels like coal, methane has a global warming impact at least 25 times that of carbon dioxide (when measured over a 100 year period).

Even small losses of methane during gas production, processing and distribution have the potential to reduce the relative greenhouse benefit of natural gas as a fuel for electricity production.

Fugitive emissions can be costly for the coal seam gas industry because escaping gas represents a loss of a valuable commodity.

What’s next for CSG emissions research?

These new findings from 43 wells are a good start, but they are clearly only the beginning, given that represents fewer than 1% of Australia’s coal seam gas wells. More measurements are required to representatively sample the remaining 99% of wells before we can make definitive statements about methane fugitive emissions in Australia.

CSIRO scientists, through the Gas Industry Social & Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA), are undertaking further research into methane emissions in Australia including understanding the natural or background emissions of methane that come from seeps in the ground in Queensland’s Surat Basin.

This research aims to identify background sources of methane and determine the best detection and measurement methods.

Results from measuring naturally occurring methane seepage, as well as the results of this new report and others, will add to the bigger picture of assessing the coal seam gas industry’s whole of life cycle greenhouse gas emission footprint. Most importantly, we hope they will provide more answers to Australians’ question about coal seam gas.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article


Harnessing the power of waves

Ocean waves are one of the most powerful natural forces on our planet. Dense with energy, they pack a lot of punch and travel enormous distances across our oceans.  What’s more, they’re very reliable – it is very easy to predict which way a wave will move.

It’s for these reasons that waves are being touted as the next big thing in renewable energy.

In fact, our scientists have conducted modelling that shows that waves have the potential to play a large part in Australia’s future energy mix. They could supply 10 per cent of our energy by 2050 – enough to power a city the size of Melbourne.

Ocean wave

While wave energy is an exciting possibility, the way we harness this power is still an emerging technology. More research needs to be done to understand exactly how ocean wave extraction will work and the potential impact it could have on marine environments.

The good news is that this will now be possible thanks to a $1.3 million grant announced by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).  This funding will allow us to develop an online ‘wave energy atlas’ – an important step towards realising wave energy projects off Australian shores.

The atlas will pull together data from weather mapping, satellites, measuring stations and other sources to allow users to assess the feasibility of wave power stations in different locations. It will also display geographic information on marine usage, including stretches of oceans that are heritage listed, marine parks and shipping lanes.

With almost 80 per cent of Australia’s population living on the coast, wave energy presents a huge possibility for our country. This new resource will allow us to make informed decisions about how to best take advantage of this powerful force.

The project will be carried out in stages over the next three years and is expected to be completed in 2017. Read more about it on the ARENA website


Soaking up the sun’s rays

Ever dreamt of charging your phone on the fly? Or thought about how the plants outside your house could power your home? Imagination could become reality thanks to Dr Scott Watkins and the clever folks in our flexible electronics team who are creating new ways to soak up and store the sun’s rays.

Watch this video to discover how photovoltaic cells could turn every surface – from your jacket to your car door to your rooftop – into a source of energy.

This post originally appeared on GE Reports

Want to know more? This solar energy project has been made possible by the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC), which is a partnership between CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and Monash University. Learn more here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,306 other followers