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The bad smell of UK shale gas

Image: Niamh Cotter

The embryonic, and probably unprofitable, UK shale gas industry faces yet another obstacle according to Robin Grayson, a geologist and member of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain.

Grayson, reported in the Blackpool Gazette, claims that any shale gas recovered from the Bowland shale formation will contain a high concentration of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) – the chemical that smells of rotten eggs that is used in stink bombs.  According to Grayson:

“Sulphur springs were once common across the county for that reason and that it was a high probability that H2S would be found in pockets throughout the shale in Lancashire.

“Poisonous H2S creates ‘sour gas’ which must be treated before going into the grid, was corrosive to equipment and posed a health risk if it escaped into the air meaning that workers, police and residents should be warned and trained for any incidents.  It is quite a serious issue, it is not just a nasty stink.  By drilling horizontally they greatly increase the probability of hitting pockets of H2S.”

Cuadrilla – the recently financially embarrassed company planning to frack part of the Bowland formation is adamant that no deposits of hydrogen sulphide are present… a somewhat striking claim given that the company has yet to conduct horizontal drill tests.  Only time will tell who is correct.  But we would not expect Cuadrilla to say anything else, since the presence of any sizable volume of hydrogen sulphide would sound the death knell for an industry that is already struggling to attract investors and has yet to bring a single Btu of profitable UK shale gas to the surface.

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