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Newsweek Feature Stories: Forced Fracking (by 92nd Street Y)

On September 9, 2009, Suzanne Matteo’s neighbor knocked on the door of her home, a former schoolhouse built in the 1800s. The house, painted white, sits on four acres in rural Pulaski Township, Pennsylvania, surrounded mostly by fields. With a panicked look, the neighbor told Matteo that she had to get down to nearby New Castle with the deed to her land. A drilling company, Hilcorp, was giving landowners in Matteo’s area $3,000 per acre they owned, plus the promise of royalties on gas production, in exchange for their signatures on drilling leases. 

They said no. 

Read the full story.  


It’s a drill that shoots frickin’ laser beams 

by Michael Keller

And it was built by a company called Foro Energy with funding assistance from the Department of Energy’s advanced research projects agency, ARPA-E. The agency says the innovation makes drilling for petroleum and geothermal sources of energy faster and cheaper.

Foro engineers overcame major physical obstacles to make their high-powered lasers. They can now deliver laser energy through fiber optic cable over long distances because they figured out how to counter an effect called stimulated Brillouin scattering. This physics problem occurs when the electric field of a high-energy laser triggers vibrations in the fiber that interfere with the movement of photons. The vibrations cause the photons to scatter, often back in the direction from which they traveled. 

See the video below.

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In declaring the state of emergency, Peru’s environment ministry said tests in February and March found high levels of barium, lead, chrome and petroleum-related compounds at different points in the Pastaza valley.

Pluspetrol, the biggest oil and natural gas producer in Peru, has operated the oil fields since 2001. It took over from Occidental Petroleum, which began drilling in 1971, and, according to the government, had not cleaned up contamination either.

Several multimillion dollar fines have been levied against Pluspetrol in recent years. The company has appealed against all of the fines in the Peruvian courts…

Note, though that The Peruvian government plans to auction a further 29 new oil and gas concessions this year.”

New program to attempt to drill further into Earth than ever before, unearth mysteries locked deep inside planet

The deepest hole ever made is more than 40 years old, and quite dead. In 1970, the Soviet Union began to drill on the Kola Peninsula, close to the Finnish border, in an attempt to penetrate the skin of the Earth. Ten years later, the drill passed the 9.6-kilometre record then held by a hole in Oklahoma made by an oil company, which failed when its drill bit hit a lake of molten sulphur. Five more years took it to 12 kilometres – but then the temperature rose so high that to go any further would have melted the bit.

In 2008, the money ran out and the site was abandoned (although some fundamentalists still cite the hoax that the drill was stopped because it had broken into Hell itself).

Now, a new programme of ocean-drilling is under way, attempting to reach parts of the planet’s interior never before penetrated. The problem with drilling on land is that the Earth’s outermost layer – the crust – is so thick that there is little chance of getting through.

Under the sea, however, its intimate secrets are easier to probe. A century ago, the Croatian meteorologist Andrija Mohorovicic was studying the shock waves made by earthquakes as they passed through the continents. He noticed that the waves travelled much faster through the rock about 56 kilometres miles below the surface than they did above that depth.

That shift – the Mohorovicic discontinuity, or “Moho” – hinted that the Earth has distinct layers of rock above its liquid metallic core, with the Moho forming the boundary between the outer crust (which makes up less than one hundredth of its mass) and an inner zone called the mantle. (Photo: AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

Protests Stop Chevron Fracking Operations in Romania

U.S. oil company Chevron were forced to halt exploratory drilling for shale gas at their drill site in eastern Romania for the second time in as many months, following mass anti-fracking protests.

Around 300 local people turned out for the protest—while an equal number of riot police were called in to restrain activists …



On November 20, 1980, an oil rig accidentally drilled into a salt mine under Lake Peigneur, Louisiana. The lake quickly started to drained into the hole, creating a whirlpool that sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges and 65 acres (260,000 m2) of the surrounding terrain.
So much water drained into the mine that the flow of the Delcambre Canal that usually empties the lake into the Golf of Mexico was reversed, making the canal a temporary inlet. This backflow created, for a few days, the tallest waterfall in the state of Louisiana as the lake refilled with salt water from the Ocean.
The lake that was once around 6 feet deep is now around 1300 feet deep in places, and turned from fresh water to salt water.

Read more here and there

Kola Superdeep borehole

It is quite hard to imagine that under this metal cap is actually the world deepest borehole! In 1970 the Soviets started drilling the Kola Superdeep Borehole (Russian: Кольская сверхглубокая скважина) on the Kola peninsula of northern Russia. In 1989 the deepest point was reached at 12,262m. In comparison the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana trench is 10,911m deep and the continental crust is around 35km thick.

So, why did they stop drilling? Well, temperatures at 12,262m were much higher than expected. Instead of the expected 100 °C it was 180 °C, they calculated that at a depth of 15,000m (the depth they were expected to reach in 1993) temperatures would be 300°C. In addition, the pressure at these depths would have been too much for the drill to handle.

Since the purpose of the borehole was to understand the nature of the earth’s crust, some interesting facts came to the surface. Scientists expected to find the so-called boundary of granite to basalt at 4-9km depth. What they found however was a fractured area that had been thoroughly saturated with water, which is remarkable at this depth. Also, fossils were found at depths of 6,7km and rather than covered in typical limestone and silica covering these had a carbon or nitrogen covering. The oldest rocks they hit were more than 2,5 billion years old.

Lotte Geeven a Dutch artist, has actually partnered up with the geologists and engineers of another superdeep borehole, the German Continental Deep Drilling Program, to discover what it sounds like at these extreme depth in the earth’s crust (you can hear it here:

In 1989 a Finnish newspaper, Ammenusastian, supposedly reported that a special microphone designed to detect tectonic plate movement was lowered down and recorded the cries of damned souls. Thus, this was seen (by certain Christian groups) as evidence that the Russians were drilling through the gates of hell..

Since 2008 Kola is not the longest borehole anymore. First Qatar’s Al Shaheen oil well reached a length of 12,289m and in 2011 the Russians (again) managed to drill offshore the island of Sakhalin to a length of 12,345m. The differences are not that big.


Image: Courtesy of Rakot14. This is actually the Kola Superdeep borehole. It was welded shut in 2005. Since 2008 the site has been abandoned.

References and further reading:


Curious about how to pitch an emergency tent on the ice? First use a hand-drill to bore two angled holes into the sea ice that meet in a V shape. Next, with bare hands, carefully slide a loop down one hole, a loose string down the other (that will theoretically slide through the waiting loop), and tug your noosed string back up and out. Lastly, after finally getting it on your 9th try out on real sea ice, don’t admit that you’re about to die of cold, even though this is just a practice run in relatively balmy -20 windchill. Smile and nod like it will be no problem to do this if you get caught in a whiteout blizzard.