Many people oppose hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, but it’s an industry that has brought more than 2.1 million jobs to America.
President Obama even said “the industry has helped reduce our carbon emissions to their lowest level in 20 years.” So why are people scared and so quick to follow environmental extremists against fracking? The answer is the lack of knowledge.
What is fracking? While a well is being drilled, steel casing is cemented into place to prevent contamination of surrounding aquifers, which provides structural support. Then the fracking process can start — openings are created in the steel casing so fracking fluid can come in contact with the shale. Finally, water is blended with sand and chemicals and then pumped into the well. When the fluid reaches the holes in the casing, the pressure will cause the shale to fracture along zones of weakness, increasing hydraulic conductivity. The whole fracking process is a few days in the life of a well that may last years.
So what about all the conspiracy theories behind fracking? Burning tap water, earthquakes, aquifer contamination and fracking fluid are just a few.
Burning tap water occurs when natural methane mixes with groundwater — this is called methane migration. In many cases, the water wells in question have been drilled directly into methane pockets. Up to 50 layers of natural gas can occur between the surface and the shale. Poor well construction can lead to methane escaping into groundwater, but well construction is not fracking. A conventional hydrocarbon or water well will cause the same issue.
Earthquakes are another fracking conspiracy, although they have nothing to do with fracking. Seismologist Dr. Cliff Frohlich from University of Texas at Austin concluded that earthquakes are caused by deep injection wells and not production wells that are fracked. The U.S Geologic Survey found similar results reporting injection wells can cause earthquakes that have the potential to cause damage.
Production wells have multiple failsafe’s to protect the freshwater aquifer. The first is the cement and steel casings that run the length of the well mentioned previously. Second, the aquifers are generally 500-feet deep. Formations that will be fracked sit at about 10,000 feet deep, leaving thousands of feet of impermeable cap rock that isolates aquifers from the shale formations.
The “mysterious” fracking fluid is always under attack. In reality, the fluid consists of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand and 0.5 percent chemicals, and the chemicals can be found in household products like cosmetics and cleaning supplies. Ninety percent of wastewater from fracking is also being recycled for future use.
We live in a time dominated by hydrocarbons, and utilizing hydraulic fracturing in the United States means less dependence on foreign energy sources. The most destructive consequence of fracking is having it banned.
Email Michael Dorsey at firstname.lastname@example.org