Contractors World

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Contractors World - 2014 Vol 4 No 5

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Engineers develop an early warning system to make fracking safer - continued

Seismic activity

Dr Sowter’s technique called the Intermittent Small Baseline Subset (ISBAS) method adapts the same technology and extends it to rural areas by taking stacks of these radar images and identifying those more transient points in the rural landscape against which changes over time are able to be measured.

An image showing land deformation in the East Midlands derived from satellite dataAn image showing land deformation in the East Midlands derived from satellite data.  
    Most of the patterns of uplift and subsidence relate to old coal mines.  The University has overlaid the known geological faults onto the image (black lines) and, show that in many areas the deformation and faults are correlated, indicating possible stress.  
     Would you really want to be fracking near those stressed lines?

NB: The ENVISAT data used to generate the figure was provided by the European Space Agency.

© 2014 University of Nottingham

Click on image to see larger view

Shale gas has the potential to help Europe reach its long-term carbon emissions target and to reduce its over reliance on a market dominated by the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine.
However, the extraction of the gas from shale rock, known as fracking, has been associated with earth tremors both in the UK – notably in Blackpool on 2011 – and in other parts of the world including Canada and the US.
The quakes are believed to be caused by the high pressure injection of water as part of the fracking process which is triggering fault lines beneath the surface and causing movement.
PUNNET GEO allows surveyors to develop a detailed map of land movement over a large region and importantly to identify where fault lines which may be associated with seismic activity are located.
Not only could it be useful for local authorities deciding whether to grant licenses for fracking in their region, but could also help operating companies to identify areas which may be problematic before drilling starts. US studies indicate it costs companies up to £5 million per reservoir when something goes wrong.
The new software could replace existing exploratory methods which are ground-based, invasive, time consuming and expensive.
It could also help to provide information to allay public concerns and support insurance cover and claims.
The software is already being used by the British Geological Survey (BGS), based in Keyworth in Nottinghamshire, which is the world’s oldest national geological survey providing expert services and impartial advice on all areas of geosciences for both the public and private sectors. The BGS is playing a role in the research project by validating the testing of the software.

International recognition

PUNNET GEO won the overall prize at the Copernicus Masters Competition, which awards prizes to innovative solutions for business and society based on Earth observation data. This was in addition to being recognised as winner of the individual Radar Constellation Challenge Category in the awards. 

Paul Bhatia, General Manager of GRACE said:

We are really thrilled at winning the Copernicus Masters. This is a great step forward for the PUNNET GEO system and The University of Nottingham. It provides great recognition of the value that satellite applications can provide to the economy as well as the environment.

This year, the prize pool had a total value of €300,000 including cash prizes, technical support, data packages, and business incubation.

As overall winner - the Copernicus Master – the University team was selected from the winners of all Challenges (except for the winner of the Best Service Challenge) and was awarded an additional cash prize of €20,000. Moreover, the project will benefit from a substantial satellite data quota worth €60,000 made available with financial support by the European Commission.

Department of Engineering, University of Nottingham


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