An analysis of the implications of Fracking will be investigated deeply, in order to formulate a conclusion after the consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of Fracking. This piece of research will mainly divide the benefits and drawbacks of the use of Fracking, withholding many points from each side. What is 'Fracking'? Engineers have known for years, that there is a mass amount of hydrocarbons trapped thousands of FT under ground, however, back in the days, technology was not available to provide solution to the high demand of oil that is existent. Fortunately, modern technology has allowed engineers to access such depth and extract hydrocarbons.
Until recently extracting oil from tar sands was very expensive, technologically difficult and complex. Advancement in technology and high price of oil-above $80 a barrel has made it possible to extract oil with profit. Although this causes pollution and ridding of nonrenewable resources it is helping the economy. (Oil Shale and Tar Sands Program, 2012) Tar sands are naturally occurring mineral bed found within the earth. It’s formed from water, sand, and bitumen coal which is formed from pressure of dead plants underground for a long period of time.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a technique for obtaining oil and gas from non-porous shale rock deep below the earth’s surface (Crawford). The process, which dates back to the 1940s, involves injecting large quantities of water infused with a mixture of chemicals and sand into the ground, which serves to fracture the rock that harbors valuable deposits of natural gas (“Fracking”). In recent years, the practice has intensified across the country enabling the U.S. to increase its gas production from 19 million cubic feet in 2005 to upwards of 25 million cubic feet in 2012 (Crawford). However, there is a conflict that exists between the need to harvest this valuable resource reducing dependence on foreign oil and providing a clean energy alternative and the need to protect a more essential and life-sustaining resource that is our drinking water. While “fracking” has made it possible to reach previously inaccessible stores of natural gas that can fill our energy needs into the distant future, the practice poses a very real threat to a far more essential and finite natural resource that is critical to sustaining life on the planet.
Wang, Q., X., Chen, A.N. Jha, & H. Rogers. (2014) Natural gas from shale formation- The evolution, evidences and challenges of shale gas revolution in United States. In Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 30, 1-28. Yu, W., Z. Luo, F. Javadpour, A. Varavei, & K. Sepehrnoori (2014) Sensitivity analysis of hydraulic fracture geometry in shale gas reservoirs.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a process that extracts natural gas from the ground. As harmless as the billion dollar producing oil companies would want us to believe, environmental groups, scientists, and average citizens have raised concerns about the negative impact of hydraulic fracking on the environment and surrounding communities. Hydraulic fracking is used in the natural gas drilling booms, like the one in Louisiana. “Modern day hydraulic fracturing results from the marriage of two technologies: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Although these technologies are not new, it was not until 2002 or 2003 that they were first combined” (Edwards and Oliver).
“Fracking” is a process in which a viscous fluid, mostly water and some toxic chemicals to create the gel like state, is injected at high pressures below the ground in an attempt to fracture shale shelves that overlay the oil and gas reserves. Once the shale is fractured, sand is injected into the shale fracture to hold the rock up while removing the oil and gas (Allen 489, 492). Most of the toxic water created for this process comes back up instantly, but some remains below the surface and is ejected slowly throughout the life of the well. Most of the water used for this process comes from local groundwater sources and cannot be used again for anything other than another “fracking” site. Two to four million gallons of toxic water is created per well (Davis181) from over fifteen thousand wells (this number is expected to rise to 20,000 wells by the end of 2014), just in the state of Texas alone.
Many of the chemicals are harmful to the health of living organisms, including humans. Fracking starts by drilling into the Earth for a few miles, and then drilling horizontally for about a mile. Once the pipes are placed, small holes are drilled into the end of the pipe. Then the chemical cocktail is injected. Pressure builds up, causing the rocks to crack, and the mixture seeps into the cracks.
According to the Environmental Studies Capstone, shale is a type of rock that contains fossil fuels. These fossil fuels can be an alternative energy source. Shale rock is located under the aquifer that contains drinking water, and therefore, the drills have to go through this aquifer. Marcellus Shale drilling is a process that uses a combination of water, sand, and chemicals to break the shale and retrieve the gas that it contains (Environmental). Marcellus Shale drilling is a hazard because it uses hundreds of dangerous chemicals in its process, it can lead to pollution and contamination, and it has few regulations applied to it; although, a solution to the major issues of this drilling is to create and enforce more regulations.
Unfortunately we now realize that these resources have a very strong impact on the environment in the form of conventional pollution, and what could be even more severe greenhouse effect. There is a severe environmental impact in all stages of fossil fuel use including: recovery, transportation, preparation/ refining, and storage- not only the end use(the actual combustion) that most people think of. When recovering coal from the earth there are three major issues: The destruction of topsoil, acidic water runoff, and land subsidies. Some recovery issues with petroleum include drilling on land and offshore, gushers, and accidents. The transportation of fossil fuels can be a very risky proposition, with risk of oil pollution of the seas and accidents during routine operations.
Environmental health, climate change, acid rain, and air pollution are among the top problems with fossil fuel production and consumption. (http://environment.about.com/library/weekly/aa050700.htm) Fossil fuel use creates severe impact on the environment in all stages of use: recovery, transportation, preparation/refining, storage, and end use. Recovery, the first stage is basically the process of coal mining. This includes the destruction of topsoil, and the risk of gushers or accidents. Also, recovery leads to discolored local creeks and rivers because of the acidic run-off of these waters (Lecture 3/11/02).