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The Fracking Challenge

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Hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking, is an incredibly controversial method of extracting shale gas. There are a lot of good reasons for the controversy. If you want to hear some of the points on both sides, I'll provide a link below to a recent debate on the subject.

My question is: why do we need millions of gallons of water and over 500 chemicals mixed in with it to break a bunch of rocks 8,000 ft below the surface? I submit that we do not, in fact, need such a Rube Goldberg method.

So I propose a government-funded contest, X-Prize style, to find a commercially viable means of extracting commercially viable quantities of shale gas that does not pose any risk to local drinking water supplies or air quality, or risk of salinating fresh water streams/rivers/lakes. Extra points will be awarded for eliminating the causing of earthquakes, as well, though that is not a requirement for my purposes.

21 Quest, Jul 25 2012

A good debate on the subject http://intelligence...more-harm-than-good
[21 Quest, Jul 25 2012]


       Drill holes. Put heavy-duty speaker systems at the bottom of each hole. Play really loud, shatteringly loud, rock music.
Vernon, Jul 26 2012

       This contest is underway in earnest, funded not only by the government but myriad other payors. Also there is no single arbiter of whether a method provides low risk but many including existing public safety agencies, courts, homeowners groups and so on.
bungston, Jul 26 2012

       Why not combine fracking with subterranean nuclear weapons testing ? Two for the price of one ...
8th of 7, Jul 26 2012

       That's actually a good idea but you'd want consistent yield small h-bombs.
FlyingToaster, Jul 26 2012

       // consistent //

       What are the error bars on that ?
8th of 7, Jul 26 2012

       The larger the projected (blast) yield, the smaller the acceptable deviance.
FlyingToaster, Jul 26 2012

       "Awwww, Ref ! Unfair !"
8th of 7, Jul 26 2012

       the Russians managed to get an h-bomb down to less than 3% fission. That's probably less poisonous than the crap they're pumping in there now.

       Thar ya go 21:

       1) dig a hole down past the strata
2) drill sideways as far as you can in 6 directions for a kilometer, leaving the drill-pipe in.
3) fill drill-pipes with LiD, attach primary to the ends.
4) get out, fill in the hole.
5) foom - 4sq km fracked.
FlyingToaster, Jul 26 2012

       // fill drill-pipe with LiD, attach primary to the end. //

       Not that simple; you need a neutron reflector, and the ratio of length to diameter is ever so slightly more important than you might think.

       The Teller-Ulam model is fairly well constrained in terms of geometry.

       // etc. //

       Sp. "Light the Blue Touchpaper and retire to a Safe Distance".
8th of 7, Jul 26 2012

       I was thinking of having a "bring your own manhole cover" party.

       //Not that simple// true I could go on about shaped tungsten pipe liner and a uranium wire running the length of the drill-pipe, etc.
FlyingToaster, Jul 26 2012

       Wouldn't the fusion make a better power source than the bit of mildly combustible fossil fuels in the hole?
DIYMatt, Jul 27 2012

       If you want to lose a little bit more faith in humanity consider this: in North Carolina, fracking was approved (even on peoples property via imminent domain) to acquire a miniscule amount of natural gas. In North Dakota, the oil fields produce so much excess natural gas that it could power the entire city of Grand Forks, but the oil is more profitable so the gas is burned off.
DIYMatt, Jul 27 2012

       With enough funding from the right kind of mad genius investors, I think I could bring the oil and natural gas up without digging a hole:

       Fracking involves shoving a bunch of water underneath the deposit and forcing it to the surface. This is amatuer hour antics. There is already water there, deep in the Earth's crust, under great pressure and very, very angry. Using focused electromagnetic fields and a little bit of sci-fi magic that currently is just beyond our grasp, we induce the water to rise by creating a giant subterranean microwave oven. The oil and natural gas will then be forced to the surface. Eureka!
Alterother, Jul 27 2012

       If we can create a subterranean microwave oven, why do we need oil and gas?
RayfordSteele, Jul 27 2012


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