1. Previous attempt to release this type of gas so that it could be collected involved the use of nuclear demolition charges. The Natural gas stimulation experiment was part of Project Plowshare, an attempt to find civilian applications for atomic explosions. The last gas stimulation shot took place on 17 May 1973, under Fawn Creek, 76.4 km north of Grand Junction, Colorado. Three 30 kiloton detonations took place simultaneously at depths of 1,758, 1,875, and 2,015 meters. It was the third nuclear explosion experiment intended to stimulate the flow of natural gas from “tight” formation gas fields. Industrial participants included the El Paso Natural Gas Company for the Gasbuggy test; Austral Oil Company; CER Geonuclear Corporation for the Rulison test; and CER Geonuclear Corporation for the Rio Blanco test. By 1974, approximately $82 million had been invested in the nuclear gas stimulation technology program.
    If it was successful, plans called for the use of hundreds of specialized nuclear explosives in the western Rockies gas fields. The previous two tests had indicated that the produced natural gas would be too radioactive for safe use. After the test it was found that the blast cavities had not connected as hoped, and the resulting gas still contained unacceptable levels of radionuclides. The fear that stove burners in might soon emit trace amounts of blast radionuclides into family homes did not sit well with the general public. The contaminated well gas was never channeled into commercial supply lines.
    The funny thing is that gas recovered from hydraulic fracturing has relatively high concentrations of NORM, even without using nuclear blasts to free it up.

    1. @DV82XL – I might be misreading it, but the last document in the table on this page – http://www.lm.doe.gov/Rio_Blanco/Documents.aspx (Rio Blanco, Colorado, Long-Term Hydrologic Monitoring Program Sampling and Analysis Results for 2009. December 21, 2009)- seems to indicate that natural gas production wells are now operating in the area near the Rio Blanco test.
      The fission products that get released from a weapons explosion tend to have shorter half lives than radium.

      1. It’s true, a resurgence in Colorado Western Slope natural gas drilling has brought gas development closer and closer to the original underground detonations. As of summer 2009, 84 drilling permits have been issued within a 3-mile radius, of the old blast site, with 11 permits within one mile of the no drill zone. Tritium is the big concern, the other fission products not that mobile, and trapped in the glass formed during the blast. But as you pointed out, T has a short half life (12years) and the concentrations must be lower by now.
        Wouldn’t it be funny if in the long-term releasing tight gas formations with a nuclear explosion was less damaging to the environment than hydro fracturing. In the long run, of course it would be best if the gas were left where it was, and nuclear power used to provide for our energy needs.

  2. I’ve seen other reports about contamination from gas wells. Is it pretty much universally true that frac-wells pollute groundwater, or is it just a case of improperly managed wells, or perhaps certain geologies are more prone to the problem than others, or what?
    Is there anything that can be done, which is economically feasible, to ‘clean up’ the gas drilling problems? The people whose groundwater is already polluted – can that be cleaned up somehow? Are there steps that can be done to prevent such pollution in the future?
    I’m a pretty big believer in the idea that technologies with problems can usually have those problems fixed by improvements to the technology or techniques – it’s one reason I gave nuclear a second look, but a lot of people have already written off nuclear as ‘too dangerous to fix’, ‘too hard to make cheap’, etc, but the nuclear industry has tried to face these challenges, I believe with much success.
    Should we not say the same thing about Gas? Not that we *shhouldn’t* drill, but that we shouldn’t drill using current methods and technology which is causing pollution, but instead need to improve how we are doing it?

    1. Jeff, you might want to point your browser here. In his December 1 blog, Geoffrey Styles states:
      Concerns about water consumption and safety hit even closer to home. Having reviewed the list of fracking chemicals on Halliburton’s website, I wouldn’t want them in my drinking water, either, any more than I’d want my family consuming any of the various household chemicals under our kitchen sink or elsewhere in our home. However, there’s nothing about the process of hydraulically fracturing shale strata thousands of feet deeper underground than the deepest aquifers that puts our drinking water at any greater risk than many routine industrial or agricultural operations. As a technology fracking is neither newer nor riskier than many other things to which we don’t give the slightest thought.
      I am happy to see more natural gas become available. But I am disappointed that we are using it for heating and electricity generation, rather than using nuclear energy. We should be using it for motor vehicles as necessary until we can fully electrify, and in the long term using it for chemical feed stock.

  3. While we’re talking about “fracking”. . . I just have to chuckle every time I hear that term. . .
    Any of you ever watch Battlestar Galactica? In that show, “Frack”, and “Fracking” were used as FCC-friendly standins for a certain curse word lol.
    With that bit of background, it seems humorously appropriate, perhaps, that this method of gas extraction is called “fracking”.

    1. Above post is me – once again found myself logged out and forgot to login, thinking I was already logged in *sigh* one of these days I’ll learn.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts