Banned in Europe, Brazil wants to use hydraulic fracturing to explore shale gas

Friday, May 24, 2013


Banned in Europe, Brazil wants to use hydraulic fracturing to explore shale gas


A controversial natural gas extraction technique, banned in some European countries, will be tested for the first time in Brazil. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is asked by the lack of studies on possible environmental damage.

The extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing is considered an alternative before the depletion of natural resources more accessible. To extract the gas, it is necessary to “explode” the rocks. The process begins with a piercing through the Rocky layer of shale. After reaching a depth of more than 1.5 thousand meters, a pump injects water with sand and chemicals at high pressure, which extends the fissures in the rock. This procedure frees the trapped gas, which flows to the surface and can then be collected.

The report is Magali Moser and published by EcoDebate, 5/21/2013.

A reference on the subject is a study by Duke University, in Pennsylvania, in which the scientists drew attention to the increase in methane concentration in drinking water in places near to the wells used for hydraulic fracturing.

Promising potential

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), with hydraulic fracturing the Brazil could reach the 10th place in the ranking of the world’s largest reserves of shale gas, also known as unconventional gas. The national petroleum Agency (ANP) intends to carry out in October an auction on the exploitation of this gas. The bowls listed to enter this round are the Parecis (MT), Parnaíba (between Maranhão and Piauí), Recôncavo, Bahia, in addition to the basins of the Paraná River (Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul) and the São Francisco River (between Minas Gerais and Bahia).

But while it is promising economically, the controversial technique is criticized by environmentalists. “There is a clear political will to make it happen [the exploitation by means of hydraulic fracturing], especially after the recent reviews very optimistic about the potential of shale gas onshore in Brazil,” he told DW Brazil Antoine Simon, the European Division of the Organization friends of the Earth International. The entity has signed, along with Greenpeace and other environmental protection organizations, a public letter in which exposes the reasons to the contrary to the positioning procedure.

For entities, does not seem to be any debate about environmental issues, health and social impacts generated by this activity. The NPA recognizes the lack of studies on the environmental impacts of the practice. “Hydraulic fracturing has caused uproar in the press, because their risks were not fully explained,” he admitted to the Press Office of the entity. In the evaluation of the PNA, the method makes it possible to increase the production of natural gas, but still has high costs and operational complexity.

Risk of contamination

Among the main environmental impacts advised by experts are the water and soil contamination, risk of explosion with the release of methane gas, excessive consumption of water to cause the fractionation of the rock, and the use of chemicals to encourage exploration. There is still concern that the technique can stimulate tectonic movements that lead to earthquakes.

To the Coordinator of the climate change and energy program of the environmental organization WWF-Brazil, Carlos Rittl, the social and environmental aspects are completely ignored: “the only argument behind the exploration is economic,” he says. “This technology is not proved safe in any place of the world.”

Another questioned by the expert is the fact that the Brazil invest in the exploitation of fossil fuels, instead of betting on renewable sources. He recalls that at least 2/3 of the world’s known reserves need to remain underground to prevent global warming.

“Brazil is very abundant in low-impact energy sources. The Government invests much less wind and solar energy, use of own biomass sugar cane and wood waste, for example, “believes.

Banned in France and Bulgaria

Hydraulic fracturing is controversial around the world. According to the organization friends of the Earth, the method is allowed in Poland and in the United Kingdom, but banned in France and Bulgaria. Other European countries have declared moratorium on the extraction technique, with the goal of making further analysis on the environmental impacts. In the case of Ireland, Czech Republic, Romania, Germany and Spain.

The Greenpeace officially positioned itself against the method. The institution says have serious concerns about direct and indirect impacts on individual and public health. Second, many of these impacts are not only local, but can be felt in regional and even global level. One of the concerns is that the technique can improve the tectonic movements that lead to earthquakes

Shale-gas production

According to the ANP, there are records of conventional hydraulic fracturing operations since 1950 in Brazil. The Agency says that, since then, more than 6 000 operations were carried out using low pressures and flows, without serious incident records. There is no experience in Brazil of fracturing fluid volume and us hydraulic power levels used in the United States, where production is concentrated.

According to the IEA, the American experience shows that unconventional gas can be exploited economically. Shale gas production in the United States increased sharply from 2005. Five years later, the shale gas already represented more than 20% of the country’s gas production.


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