NEWS BEYOND OUR BORDERS
About those fracking earthquakes
CBC News - Why does fracking cause earthquakes in some places and not others? Alberta scientists say they've figured out some factors that make certain wells prone to triggering earthquakes. That could help make it possible to forecast the risk of fracking-induced earthquakes in the future.
Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a way of extracting natural gas that involves injecting fluid into a well under high pressure to fracture the gas-bearing rock and release the gas inside. The practice has been linked to most large earthquakes in Alberta and B.C.'s oil and gas patches in recent decades. But generally across North America, fracking-induced earthquakes are rare, prompting questions about why they arise in some places and not others.
A study led by Ryan Schultz, a seismologist with the Alberta Energy Regulator and a geophysical research scientist at the University of Alberta, shows that the underlying geology determines whether earthquakes can be induced at all by a particular well.
So what makes a well earthquake prone? While geological factors are too complex to make precise predictions, Schultz and his collaborators managed to pinpoint some signs. One is the edge of a fossil coral reef below the well. The edges of modern coral reefs tend to form at faults, so ancient reefs likely did, too. When ancient reefs are buried and fossilized, they produce a distinctive type of rock called carbonate that geologists often detect and map, pointing to the location of faults, Schultz said.
Nuke dump moving forward
World Nuclear News - Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has completed drilling the first borehole near Ignace, Ontario to a depth of about 1 kilometre. It is one of five sites in Ontario to be investigated for the siting of a deep repository for the long-term management of the country's used nuclear fuel. Drilling began on November 6 in a rock formation known as the Revell Batholith about 35 kilometres west of Ignace, Ontario. NWMO announced that drilling of the first borehole was completed on January16.
NWMO anticipates drilling three initial boreholes, one after the other. Eventually, more extensive borehole drilling may be undertaken.
Mahrez Ben Belfadhel, vice president of site selection at NWMO, said: "Completing the drilling of our first borehole to obtain initial core samples and provide access to the geological conditions at depth marks another significant milestone in Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel."
NWMO is searching for a suitable site for storing nuclear waste. The preferred site must have a suitable rock formation in an area with an informed and willing host, and the project will only move forward in partnership with First Nation and Métis peoples and surrounding communities. Twenty-one communities, all in Ontario or Saskatchewan, initially requested preliminary assessments. Of the 11 areas selected for phase 2 studies, five in Ontario now remain.
Sunny ways coming to Alberta
The PEG - Southern Alberta is well-known for its windfarms but now solar farms are popping up across the area, too. A 30-hectare farm outside of Brooks is the largest solar facility in Western Canada.
This winter, Vancouver’s Elemental Energy launched the $30-million farm, which includes 50,000 panels with the capacity to power 3,000 homes. Several larger projects are also being developed in the region, and so are a growing number of smaller entries into the market.
In the nearby Taber and Vauxhall districts, for instance, local governments recently greenlit three solar facilities proposed by Solar Krafte and two projects proposed by Canadian Solar/BowMount. Also under consideration is a project by Aura Power.
Robot spiders invade Indian sewers
Quartz Media - An Indian startup has found a way to get rid of a centuries-old social problem in India that has only turned deadly in recent times, killing more people in a year than even terrorism does in Kashmir.
Genrobotics, a firm based in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala, has created a robot that cleans sewers—a degrading and dangerous task otherwise performed by thousands of manual scavengers across the country.
On February 26, Genrobotics in partnership with Kerala state government deployed the first robot named Bandicoot, in Thiruvananthapuram. Bandicoot is a The spider-like machine with an arm that drops into the manhole, unclogs it, and pulls out the sludge. Bandicoot does in 45 minutes what three workers take two hours to do, one of Genrobotics’ founders said.
The company is now in talks with the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) to take the four-legged Bandicoot countrywide, said Arun George, a co-founder of the firm.
Inflation boosts $6 Million Man to $120 million
Quartz Media - Johnny Matheny is the first person to live with an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm. Last December, researchers from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab delivered the arm to Matheny at his home in Port Richey, Florida. Aside from the occasional demo, this is the first time the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) has spent significant time out of the lab.
Johns Hopkins has received more than $120 million from the US Defense Department to help pay for the arm’s development over the past 10 years.
Matheny, who lost his arm to cancer in 2005, is the first person to live with the MPL, but there are plans to have others try it out this year. There are a few things Matheny is not allowed to do with the arm, like getting it wet or drive while wearing it. But beyond that, the goal is to push the robotic prosthetic to its limits.
The two major components of the current prosthetic test will be to determine how technically capable the arm is and how well it’s controlled by Matheny’s brain. If these robotic limbs controlled solely by thought can be designed and successfully used, it would revolutionize prosthetics. Artificial limbs could then become much more organic, working with an individual patient’s movements, intentions, and body.