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Hydraulic fracturing and sustainability

Clough, Brendan (2016). Hydraulic fracturing and sustainability. Bachelor of Engineering (4th Year Project) Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Clough, Brendan
Title Hydraulic fracturing and sustainability
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2016-10
Thesis Type Bachelor of Engineering (4th Year Project)
Supervisor Wolff, R.
Prathapan, Sabaratnam
0905 - Civil Engineering
Abstract Coal seam gas (CSG) is a form of natural gas that has become trapped in coal seams buried anywhere from 300-1000m beneath the Earths surface. Gas reserves in coal seams are described as an unconventional natural gas due to the methods required to extract the gas being dissimilar to conventional gas extraction. These methods include the use of vertical, horizontal and multidirectional drilling with the addition of hydraulic fracturing to stimulate flow in cases. Hydraulic fracturing is an important tool for unconventional gas extraction, wells that are hydraulically fractured can produce greater total yields and increased production rates for the life of the well.

Queensland, Australia is home to considerable CSG resources, the extraction of which is currently under heavy debate. It is the purpose of this thesis to investigate the use of hydraulic fracturing in Queensland and provide opinion on the hazards associated with the process. The assessment will be completed using available literature to determine if the additional gas yield outweighs potential risk for Queensland.

Of particular interest will be risks associated with the environmental viability of the process, which has been highlighted in recent years as CSG production has grown, leading to confusion as to the sustainability of this process for gas extraction in Australian. These concerns are added to the already negative press over the mining of CSG in Australia, particularly Queensland. To identify key risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and provide analysis into the steps necessary to lower the probability and degree of risks a risk management plan was developed.

Identified in the risk assessment were three key risks that required further analysis in order to make a detailed assessment. There were:
− Fracture fluid migration
− Exposure to fracture fluids
− Fresh water use

To further analyse these three risks a number of measurement techniques were conducted. To determine the extent of fresh water usage a life cycle assessment was conducted and to evaluate the hazards associated with fracturing fluids, mock fluids were developed for discussion. The results from the risk evaluation will provide an insight as to the level of the risks and the actions that need to be taken to manage them.

Under continued development of government legislation and regulations as well as industry practice the viability of hydraulic fracturing is continuing to grow. If current industry trends continue there is no reason that the method of hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of coal seam gas should be treated any differently from other mining operations in Australia. Findings in this report indicate that hydraulic fracturing is a viable method for the extraction of CSG.
Keyword hydraulic fracturing
coal seam gas (CSG)
produced water
risk management
fracture fluids
life cycle assessment (LCA)
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Created: Tue, 13 Dec 2016, 12:48:56 CST by Jessie Ng