As it is more widely called, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is just one small method in the larger process of unconventional oil and natural gas production. Fracking is an established fracking technique which is used to extract deep underground oil, natural gas, geothermal energy, or water. Fracking has been safely used since 1947 in the United States. Using the fracking technique, over 1.7 million U.S. wells have been drilled, generating over seven billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Simply stated, hydraulic fracturing is the method of injecting high pressure liquid and materials to establish small fractures within tight shale formations to boost production and securely extract energy from an underground well after the drilling has ended and the rig and derrick are removed from the site.
On average, the process takes about three to five days to complete from start to finish. The well is deemed “completed” after the fracking process is completed and is now able to safely manufacture American oil or natural gas for years, even decades, to come.
Fracking is an environmental and political issue which is fiercely debated. Advocates insist it is a secure and cost-effective source of renewable energy; opponents, however, argue that fracking will kill the supply of drinking water, pollute the air, lead to global warming greenhouse gases, and cause earthquakes.
Some claim it can poison groundwater, pollute surface water, impair wild habitats, and endanger wildlife without strict protection regulations. Environmental issues were caused by the widespread use of fracking in the US, where it revolutionized the energy industry.
But exactly what are the concerns? Well, fracking uses massive quantities of water, which must be transported at considerable environmental expense to the site. Environmentalists warn that, as well as earthquake problems, potentially carcinogenic chemicals may escape during drilling and contaminate groundwater across the fracking site.
Campaigners argue that fracking distracts energy companies and governments from investing in clean energy sources and fosters continued dependency on fossil fuels. They can leak and contaminate groundwater if the oil or gas wells are not built solidly enough. Water “Flowback” can contaminate streams and sources of water. The rush into fracking has not kept pace with significant environmental protections.
Toxic drilling fluids, for example, are excluded from federal control under the Clean Drinking Water Act, including documented cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and toluene. And the federal government does not require firms to report what is in the fracking fluid, without all but the drilling companies understanding what is in it, letting millions of gallons of radioactive fluid into the field on each drilling site.
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