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Showing posts from February 27, 2011

Frac water versus all water in Pennsylvania

In Part II of his work, "Wastewater Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process," published by NYT on March 1, 2011, Mr. Ian Urbina states that 
[I]n the year and a half that ended in December 2010, well operators reported recycling at least 320 million gallons. But at least 260 million gallons of wastewater were sent to plants that discharge their treated waste into rivers, out of a total of more than 680 million gallons of wastewater produced, according to state data posted Tuesday. First, 320+260=580, not 680, as Mr. Urbina writes, but that's a minor problem.  Second, let's do the arithmetic:

580 million gallons of wastewater over 1.5 years is equal to 580/1.5/365=1.06 million gallons of wastewater per day, on the average.  Out of this volume of water, 320/1.5/365=0.58 million gallons of water per day was recycled, and the remaining 0.48 million gallons of water per day was sent to water purification plants for processing and discharge into rivers.

Now, let's com…

Wendell Berry

My dear friend, poet, writer, farmer, and a sterling human being, Wendell Berry, was just recognized with the 2010 National Humanities Medal.  This medal could not have gone to a better person.

But do not take my word for it, please read Wendell's books, including the latest one on economics. Here is the forward to this book, "What Matters?" by Herman Daly, one of a handful of economists, who actually know what they are talking about without hiding behind gobbledygook, senseless non-physical equations, and meaningless quasi-religious ideology.

Natural gas versus coal

You and I use a lot of energy. Every second of each day and night we devour 100 times more energy than we need to live.  If I were to eat that much energy as food, I would be a 50-foot long bull sperm whale, weighing 40 tons.  There are 300,000 sperm whales worldwide, half of them bulls (females are much smaller), and 300,000,000 Americans (females are about the same in size).  Our Earth cannot feed and protect 300,000,000 male sperm whales.  She is simply too small.
Our voracious appetite for energy must be either extinguished or quenched with local sources of energy (and, no, wind turbines and PV cells are too small to provide even single ample energy meal per day).
So here are some of the choices we have:  We can drill and hydrofracture deep gas wells, and produce natural gas closer to where we live, or we can go after coal leftovers. We can also opt not to use fossil fuels and live differently, more Amish-like. For example, we can opt to live in the well-insulated houses that are 40…

Radioactivity in water and natural gas fracing

In this post I attempt to provide a context for an article in NYT, Drilling Down: Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers by IAN URBINA, published on February 26, 2011.  The article seems to imply that much of the potentially deadly radioactive contamination of drinking water supply in Pennsylvania comes from "frac water" produced after hydrofracturing the deep natural gas wells there.  Such an assertion is not supported by facts, and here is why.
The raw data from the NYT spreadsheet, emailed to me by Mr. Urbina, are plotted here.  In the spreadsheet, there are up to five different measurements of radioactivity in the water produced from each of 212 natural gas wells in Pennsylvania.  Total alpha radiation refers to all alpha-particle-emitting radioisotopes present in the produced water.  In some wells there were additional measurements of alpha-radioactivity from two isotopes of radium and two isotopes of uranium.  By subtraction, the difference of between t…