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.

Read More

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)

How Deep do we Drill for Oil?

Deeper every year as the easy shallow oil is depleted and drilling technology evolves.

In 1949, the average depth for an oil well was 1108 m (3,635 ft), or about the half the height of the highest of the Appalachians above sea level. By 2008, the average well was about 1830 m (~6000 ft), now getting a high as some of the highest peaks of the Appalachians (~6000 ft). Oil platforms of today, in the deep oceans, exploit reservoirs at several km depth — 2.850 km below the waves for the Perdido platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon, before blowing out and spewing its petroleum throughout the Gulf, was capable of drilling in water as deep as ~2500 m, and reach oil at a depth of ~9,100 km. That is, to keep this to a scale we can somewhat comprehend, these wells are capable of reaching depths below sea level about equivalent to the height of Mt Everest above sea level, deeper in fact than the Marianas Trench.

What limits the drilling depths? Technology can be advanced, but technology costs money. So, the price of crude is a major limiting factor. But as well, petroleum itself reaches a depth limit: at high pressures and temperatures, oil breaks down, probably converting to gas. The point of this conversion is variable around the planet, depending on such things as the thickness of the crust and its regional heat flow. 

Recognized as the world’s deepest well is the Soviet Era Kola Borehole of Siberia that went down 12 km into the earth’s crust to literally go where no man has gone before (see our post here: http://tmblr.co/Zyv2Js1FTDFmX). This hole was not for oil, but for scientific exploration: it went into rocks of the Archean, found microfossils, didn’t find a change in rock type from granite to basalt that had been the accepted consensus model before this hole, and shut down when it came to a place where rocks become ductile enough that they really could be drilled anymore. 

Annie R

Read also:

Image Source: Downloaded from http://xkcd.com/

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 …




New laser drill could help access geothermal energy.

A new laser drill demonstrated in 2012 could lead to the development of geothermal energy resources much easier. The development of an “inexpensive, high-powered laser” by Foro Energy’s is still very much in the testing phase, but could reduce costs by as much as a factor of 10.

These types of lasers have undergone successful in field tests and have been found to be able to drill through solid rock at costs that are significantly less than those required for conventional drilling in small scale tests. Large scale deployment could therefore dramatically reduce the cost of building geothermal energy plants. Future tests involve bringing these tests up to industrial scales.

Stay tuned.


Photo Credit: Gretar Ívarsson, Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland