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back to article Village-swallowing MUDCANO was no accident, say boffins

In early 2006, miners drilling a new natural gas well in the Indonesian district of Porong struck a problem. Not far from their workings and not long after they did some drilling, hot mud started bubbling to the surface. Lots of hot mud. So much mud that at least 30,000 people were displaced and 10,000 buildings destroyed. …

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Anonymous Coward

And they tell us fracking is safe?

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Facepalm

How old is fracking? And how many mud volcanoes had it caused in that time?

To save you the effort: more than 50 years, and one. Maybe.

Time and time again you people claim x y or z means fracking is the devil, but it always turns out to be so much over emotional hyperbole with no basis in fact.

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Happy

Er none, not one.

It says they were drilling a natural gas well and it seems it was a conventional well not a shale gas job.

Hydraulic fracturing does appear to have played a part, but that was due to existing water in the rocks and geothermal action rather than a deliberate action by the drillers.

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They were drilling a test well for natural gas, not fracking. There are about 500,000 natural gas wells in the US alone, millions worldwide. I don't know of any that have caused a mud eruption.

This mud eruption is occurring because of a deep hydrothermal system that feeds it along a tectonic fault line. It isn't occurring because of anything being injected into the ground.

This has absolutely nothing to do with fracking.

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Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

But the probability of damage due to correctly analysed and performed fracking is pretty low.

The worrying thing about this is it just goes to show that if you are harmed by fracking the chances of recompense are even lower.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

> The worrying thing about this is it just goes to show that if you are harmed by fracking the chances of recompense are even lower.

Really? What makes you think that. Do you think the drilling company should simply pay out even if they were not responsible?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

We don't know yet, because there have been so few cases of proven harm due to fracing. I'm ignoring things like methane emerging from taps connected directly to boreholes through methane bearing rock.

It would be so much easier if people were truthful and realistic. As we know with Deepwater Horizon, the moment there is an accident fraudsters start up, and because they are well organised and often good at self promotion, they may succeed where honest people who were genuinely affected do not. I'm thinking of people whose weekend shrimping trips suddenly turned into millions of dollars a year businesses, for instance.

What is needed is perhaps some kind of independent of government body none of whose members is allowed to be related to anyone who might have a vested interest, which would do preliminary investigation of claims. The British and American adversarial court system is the main reason that compensation cases are so long and ineffective - neither side usually has an interest in the objective truth.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

"Really? What makes you think that. Do you think the drilling company should simply pay out even if they were not responsible?"

In this case they are responsible.

Even if the earthquake had an influence, there wouldn't be a mud volcano without the drilling.

Quake apart maybe their risk assessment wasn't deep enough.

More to the point it looks like the drilling company did something wrong.

After investigations by independent experts, police had concluded the mud flow was an "underground blow out", triggered by the drilling activity. It is further noted that steel encasing lining had not been used which could have prevented the disaster. Thirteen Lapindo Brantas' executives and engineers face twelve charges of violating Indonesian laws

The company also did try to PT Lapindo Brantas to an offshore company for only $2, but Indonesia's Capital Markets Supervisory Agency blocked the sale

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Re: And they tell use fracking is safe?

Found this site which was interesting and, I thought, well presented. Don't have any idea how accurate it is but gives some food for thought. No mention of mudcanos though!

http://www.dangersoffracking.com/

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

So you think the mud volcano would have happened if the drilling company hadn’t made the hole in the first place.

The only people saying they were not responsible is the drilling company and vested interests - everyone else seems to think it is. Maybe they had some bad luck but if I push someone off a tall building I'd be hard pushed to say it wasn’t my fault I didn’t make the drop.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

What is needed is perhaps some kind of independent of government body none of whose members is allowed to be related to anyone who might have a vested interest, which would do preliminary investigation of claims.
Even simpler: Fix it so no money changes hands, neither side's lawyers have to be paid, until the case is decided and all avenues of appeal are exhausted.

That way, it's in both sides' interests to reach a conclusion as soon as possible. Stringing out a case longer than necessary hurts your own legal team as much as it hurts your opponent. And (provided you remember to claim your own legal costs as part of the settlement) there's no such thing anymore as not having enough money to continue fighting a case that you stand every chance of winning, but which is being unreasonably delayed by your opponents.

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They're drilling into an accretionary prism which is a poorly consolidated heap of junk eroded from an overriding plate and stuff scraped of a subducting plate. They're absolutely full of water and gas under high pressure trying to get to the surface. The well hit one of these pressurised regions and couldn't cope; the well blew because of external pressure not through fracking.

You can see similar, but smaller mud volcanoes in other prisms such as Trinidad and Tobago and the Makran region of Pakistan.

Mud volcanoes are also found in regions where natural gas is forcing its way up through unconsolidated sediments; if you want to see some corkers, including ones which occasionally catch fire, the region around Baku in the Caspian is a must-see.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

Mud volcanoes can, and do, happen in these sorts of regions - in fact they are the one of the pieces of evidence petroleum geologists use when looking for hydrocarbons. But one on this scale is pretty much unprecedented - I can only think of the smaller Piparo mud volcano in Trinidad that wrecked a town.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piparo

But here, the drilling company seem to have some serious questions to answer.

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Happy

Re: And they tell use fracking is safe?

Interesting site. I have noticed that there is not one of those who are supporting fracking bans are advocating the surrender of the "modern lifestyle" . They want the right and the convenience to jet here, to drive there, to have all the electric for air condition and other conveniences yet they want to prevent the recovery of the energy that makes that possible.

There is an environmental cost to every thing that is done today even farming. The production of food (farming) could not be done with the oil/gas industry. Without coal, gas, and oil our way of life could not exist. Even nuclear has its problems and the environmentalist have pushed for its banning in the past. But now many are pushing for more nuclear generators to replace coal and later gas generators.

The question is how much environmental damage is exceptable and how much that damage can be mitigated, The answer to both of these questions depends on what lifestyle one is willing to have.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

"As we know with Deepwater Horizon, the moment there is an accident fraudsters start up"

As we know, in order to drill as quickly and cheaply as possible, those involved in the Deepwater Horizon Fiasco knowingly disregarded the safeguard measures put in place by stinking anti-corporate liberals - bent on stopping energy exploitation at all costs - to prevent the very thing that happened, and then they fraudulently lied to the public about it for days until there literally was no rat-hole left for them to shelter in, at which point they started 'fessing up in dribs and drabs.

There. Fixed it for you.

I'll believe what an energy company says about public safety the day they give up their unnecessary and usurious public tax-money welfare, provided in the face of record profits even during severe economic downturn.

Interestingly, it seems that Albertans, who've been fracking away like crazy for years, think we're crazy to do the same thing at such shallow depths. They say it's obvious there's a danger to the water supply in that scenario.

But what would Albertans know about oil, just because the province floats on an ocean of the stuff?

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Boffin

Fracking - Is it Safe?

What is "Safe" - Is your car safe? Then howcum there are so many accidents. But you still use cars to travel because you ( think that you) understand the risks involved.

Same for aircraft, ships and if you check historical data, Horse drawn carts ran down a lot of pedestrians.

When someone demands that fracking, oil pipelines, oil drilling, nuclear power be banned until they are totally safe, with no possibility of accidents or oil spills or meltdowns, I say sure, as soon as you make a "totally safe" bathtub.

No matter what we do, there will always be something totally unexpected event that nobody expected, that causes a major or minor disaster. Get used to it - Shit happens!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

You haven't fixed anything because I made no comment on the rights or the wrongs of the matter. I was remarking that once the adversarial lawyers get involved, it becomes very hard to get at the truth of how serious an accident/incident really was, and that sensationalists misrepresent risks and outcomes making it hard for the non-scientist to form an opinion on the safety of technology. That has nothing at all to do with who was responsible.

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Fracking is largely done for natural gas in totally different rock formations and most certainly not in highly geologically active regions, in particular, not in regions lousy with volcanoes.

Prior studies showed that there was a layer of rock between the CO2 laden mud area and the surface. Once that rock layer was breached, the pressure from the CO2 would force the mud out of the borehole and there is precious little one can do to either prevent such a flow or staunch it.

Of course, the new study conflicts with the six prior studies, so obviously the single new paper, all done on a mathematical, theoretical basis trumps all analysis performed upon the very structures involved that used samples returned through the borehole, as well as various imaging methods is correct.

Or something.

Either way you slice it, the authors managed to publish and not die.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

"We don't know yet, because there have been so few cases of proven harm due to fracing. I'm ignoring things like methane emerging from taps connected directly to boreholes through methane bearing rock."

I have to call bullshit on that one. I've been in some of the homes involved that now have natural gas, aka methane, in their water. Both before the fracking started and after.

Before, they had fine mineral water pumped up from their well. After, an effervescent mixture of natural gas and water.

Another site had fracking mud overflow its reservoir, flow downhill, killing all plants in its path to sterilize the pond at the bottom of the hill. Said pond was stocked annually, but nothing survives in that pond today, regardless of effort.

The drilling company proclaims to all who care to listen that it wasn't their drilling mud, which is well documented to contain various heavy metals and other toxic substances that the mud didn't cause the kill off of both the trail that the mud tool, six feet on either side of the flow or the pond itself.

Must've been that tap into methane bearing rock or something else mythical.

But, all know better than those who have personally witnessed these things and do happen to understand the science involved.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

"So you think the mud volcano would have happened if the drilling company hadn’t made the hole in the first place."

To be highly technical, in a way yes. In a few thousand years or so, the carbonic acid would have etched away enough of the stone layer between the surface and the CO2-H2O laden soil layer below that stone layer.

But, when one directly causes that which should have been delayed by millennial numbers, one most certainly has precipitated a disaster.

Regardless of how much one attempts to muddy the water.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

Smooth move. Corporate attorneys operate off of billable hours. So, neither attorney gets paid at all until the case is resolved.

Which only gives the ability for a company to indefinitely delay proceedings to avoid paying at all while the poor populace lose attorneys who are unpaid and harder to replace, whereas the corporation just keeps retaining new attorneys and paying their billable hours after the plaintiffs die off of old age, give up or can't retain an attorney.

Which would leave the victims to only one recourse: violence.

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Re: And they tell use fracking is safe?

The problem isn't that of not desiring to exploit resources, it is one of desiring safe exploitation. I happen to personally know people whose wells, their only source of water, has been compromised with natural gas mixed with the water from the aquifer. These wells have been in service for literally generations with no problem until the fracking crew arrived, drilled and then hydraulically fractured the borehole.

I do complain about nuclear reactors on the basis of sustainability, as the highly contaminated waste is long lived. I do, however, desire thorium reactors, which can "burn" said waste to leave waste that only lasts a maximum of a century or so, rather than the tens of thousands of years for current waste.

The true question is one of a risk-benefit analysis. What we instead have in place is a drill baby drill culture, safety and environmental impact be damned.

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Re: Only a liar would say fracking is totally safe.

"...give up their unnecessary and usurious public tax-money welfare..."

Let's examine gasoline prices in the US, Canada and most of the EU. Then, notice how the US and Canada subsidize oil prices, the EU does not.

How much are they paying for gasoline in Germany these days?

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Re: Fracking - Is it Safe?

So, because nothing in the entire world is 100% safe, safety should be abandoned?!

Risk analysis should never be performed because the worst is inevitable?

Fortunately, history has proved you wrong. Both from the aspect of decreasing traffic accident fatalities in the various classes of motor vehicle accidents and in nuclear power, where western designed reactors only melted down twice, with only one having a significant release of radioactivity due to cracked concrete due to a massive earthquake, loss of power due to a poorly designed backup power system that remained susceptible to a tsunami and operator incompetence.

Aircraft caused fatalities have also decreased, indeed, a recent crash of a Boeing 777 had two fatalities, where if a Boeing 707 had crashed, there would have been hundreds of fatalities. All secondary to a culture of safety involved in the design and construction of modern aircraft.

In your world vision, we'd not have safety glass, accepting decapitations of motorists, melted down first generation nuclear power plants causing a large part of the Earth to be uninhabitable and aircraft that still explode in the sky during thunderstorms or smear the passengers down the runway when a tire fails or even explode when a window fails due to pressurization causing square window holes to split.

If it's all the same to you, I'll reject the lack of a safety culture, risk analysis and mitigation of risks.

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I can see Jesus in the mudcano!

He looks terrified, but I would be too.

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Just a note: "Lusi" isn't the place name - it's one of these lovely Indonesian acronyms, meaning "Sidoarjo mud [flow]".

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Just a thought...

If the mud is geothermally heated, and they've already built dikes to contain the flow, why not build a channel to funnel the flow to where it can be used, and in the process erect hydrothermal power plants along the route?<br>You'd direct the flow away from the populated parts, draw energy from the heat/force of the flow, and deposit it where it might do some good (or at least the least damage).<br>Being blind, I can't see if any of these ideas have been utilized, but if not, why not?<br>"If a blind man can see the solution, what's that say about you Sighted folk?"<br>*Cough*<br>=-)p

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Re: Just a thought...

Considering how much heat we currently dump into the sea in this country (there's a reason why most power stations are around the coast), and how much more advanced our infrastructure is, I'm guessing this would be a pretty difficult thing to set up. Also assuming the mud is relatively low temperature (under 100C), and pretty viscous (ie it's not really flowing, just being pushed to the surface to form a giant, slightly sloppy, mountain), it might be hard to let it 'flow' elsewhere.

An aside: assuming you are using a screen reader and assisted input, it is formatting your input here slightly wrongly. It has inserted html line break tags, instead of simply using carriage returns. I don't know the first thing about assisted input programmes (so I don't know if that's something you can fix or not) but thought it would be useful to tell you.

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Re: Just a thought...

Fortunately ve haf the internet at our fingertips, viscous it aint!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MxaHwpFBWk

Did no-one else here immediately type mudcanoe+youtube into google? I ask with interest because, well really, just how could you resists?

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Just saying

The word we seek is principal, a main participant, not principle, a fundamental proposition.

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Re: Just saying

>The word we seek is principal, a main participant, not principle, a fundamental proposition.

Well spotted. I read the article, and that part did not make any sense, but it didn't occur to me that meaning could be found by fixing up a spelling error. I just thought it was a strange sentence included to boost up the word count.

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Coat

They dug too deep

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!

And so forth

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Finally !

But You Shall Not Pass is way after. You should have stayed with "You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum".

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Anonymous Coward

The Dwarves dug too greedily and too deep!

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MrT
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Export opportunities...

...to the health spa "industry"? L'Oréal could buy it all up and then package it with a whole new line of pseudo-scientific b'lox. Probably a serum or two, maybe pro-retinol if it looks nice, that kind of thing.

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Coat

Quickly

Someone get the girls in bikinis!

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The bbc news website version of this story has a lot more detail, including about how the scientists came to their conclusions. I'll leave it to you to find the link for it as our hosts here might not like me putting it up.

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In 1965 a whole drilling rig disappeared in a mud outburst in the Netherlands.

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/'t_Haantje,_Drenthe

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Alien

That picture worries me.

Red vegetation?

UUUULLAAAAAAA!!!!

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IT Angle

It looks plainly obvious that this wouldn't have happened without the drilling, but does that automatically mean the drilling company are at fault?

Assuming they did everything right (stuck to processes, did the proper surveys, etc) and there is no way they could've foreseen this happening, are they still legally culpable?

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IT Angle

I work with drillers every day in a Geotechnical engineering firm. You're right that there is no way for us to know what's underground prior to drilling, so drillers pretty much have to expect the unexpected all the time. In my opinion, they're culpable since their actions led to the disaster -- this is what insurance is for. Our drillers do things by the book, and we still sometimes (very infrequently) have borehole collapses that cause damage to houses, sidewalks, roads, etc. It goes with the business.

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Anonymous Coward

article picture totally missleading

Most important point, where are the big muddy boobs this articles picture suggested/promised?

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MrT
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Image search...

...Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea...

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Meh

Drillers Insurance?

Do you think the drillers insurance covered the loss of any equipment and the drilling site? I'm betting it did...

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Black Helicopters

Voting iregularities?

Awful lot of pro fracking passion from an IT audience, its odd how stories about fracking or banking seem to attract serial downvoting.

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Re: Voting iregularities?

It's also odd how stories involving wells and fracking bring out so many mining and drilling "experts" eager to enlighten us with their "knowledge."

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Re: Voting iregularities?

I think you might be suggesting that you find it strange that there are pro-fracking votes on here, and that there might be some astroturfing going on.

I would just like to go on record as saying that I am pro-fracking, I support it wholeheartedly, and, just like nuclear power plants, I'd have no concerns living near a fracking site. I have absolutely no links to the oil/gas industry at all, and never have. I also think that, based on several years' reading here, there is a large number of people that support the production of efficient, reliable energy in large amounts (i.e. not wind/solar, at least in the UK), and therefore support fracking and nuclear too. A lot of people here will go into great depth about cost/benefit analysis, and that there are far more important things to worry about than the small risk of minor earthquakes from fracking.

I find it utterly mind-numbing that there are people who are so brain-washed that they can't conceive that people don't really buy into the panic of the week ...

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Re: Voting iregularities?

I'm a big fan of nuclear, fracking on the other hand seems inherently risky, but then this article isn't about fracking, it's just something that's come up in the comments and has received a crapload of votes, even though voting on this site is a complete pain in the arse and the regulars don't usually bother down voting all dissenting opinions even when their OS of choice is insulted.

Fracking, Green, Oil, Arms and finance topics really seem to bring out the clickers.

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