Stanford geoscientist cites critical need for basic research to unleash promising energy sources

Stanford geoscientist cites critical need for basic research to unleash promising energy sources by Science Codex, December 4, 2012
“In this talk we present, from a university perspective, a few examples of fundamental research needs related to improved energy and resource recovery.” Zoback, an authority on shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Committee on Shale Gas Development.  … But enhanced geothermal systems have faced many roadblocks, including small earthquakes that are triggered by hydraulic fracturing. In 2005, an enhanced geothermal project in Basel, Switzerland, was halted when frightened citizens were shaken by a magnitude 3.4 earthquake. That event put a damper on other projects around the world. … Zoback also will also discuss challenges facing the emerging shale gas industry. “The shale gas revolution that has been under way in North America for the past few years has been of unprecedented scale and importance,” he said. “As these resources are beginning to be developed globally, there is a critical need for fundamental research on such questions as how shale properties affect the success of hydraulic fracturing, and new methodologies that minimize the environmental impact of shale gas development.” … “The fact is that only 25 percent of the gas is produced, and 75 percent is left behind,” he said. “We need to do a better job of producing the gas and at the same time protecting the environment.” … Even more progress is required in extracting petroleum, Zoback added. “The recovery of oil is only around 5 percent, so we need to do more fundamental research on how to get more hydrocarbons out of the ground,” he said. “By doing this better we’ll actually drill fewer wells and have less environmental impact. That will benefit all of the companies….”

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 12:05 p.m., Zoback will deliver another talk on the risk of triggering small-to-moderate size earthquakes during carbon capture and storage. [Emphasis added]

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