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Geological titbits

5 December 2013

A fossilised pair of froghoppers have been found in the act of copulation – dating back to the Jurassic. The discovery, in Chinese Mongolia, indicates forcefully that rapid death and  instant preservation took place.

A new North Sea gas field, found in 1985 but only just given the go-ahead as it involves new technology, is estimated to continue to bring oil out of the sea bed for the next 25 years – which must be good news. It is situated 77 miles to the east of the Shetlands and involves drilling downwards and then outwards (in several directions) which sounds a bit like fracking – although this is denied.

A new way of using energy from coal. Algy Cluff, a pioneer of North Sea oil and gas exploration, and later, developing gold and other minerals in Africa – is now back in the UK and is looking at coal gasification. British Coal was experimenting with this over 20 years ago, and has a patent on producing oil out of coal (never taken up). It is buried somewhere in the caverns of Whitehall, the victim of the war against King Coal launched in the 1980s. Coal has been on the backburner ever since, and yet it is still the main fuel driving the Grid – but is imported. Obviously, for an enterprising soul there is great scope in home grown coal – we have lots and lots of the stuff. The process involves drilling into deep coal seams, pumping in hot water and oxygen, and converting 80 per cent of the coal into synthesis gas (syngas), a mixture of hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. As such, the gas is somewhat similar to the coal gas produced in those gasworks closed down 20+ years ago – but the land they stood on has since been sold on and the money involved has been trousered (from under the skirts of the politicos). The process involves 'enhanced drilling techniques' that enable the drilling of horizontal holes – which might be described as fracking in the modern idiom (but again, denied). It seems enviros think using coal gas is okay but fracking for natural gas is somehow evil and to be resisted by the saintly Greens in our company, eating away at the money in your pocket. Getting coal gas out of the ground is described as more efficient than fracking – according to the PR. The rub is that shale gas is extremely deep – way down beyond the water aquifer. Coal gas will exploit coal seams that are much closer to the water aquifer – and is more likely to affect water supplies. Upside down thinking. Perhaps.

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