Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing, as it is formally known - is the process that releases natural gas from shale by shooting fracturing fluid consisting of water, sand, and chemicals at shale rock. While the roots of hydraulic fracturing can be traced back to 1865, the fracking we know today was first used commercially on March 17, 1949, first in Oklahoma and later that same day in Texas. The 1980s ushered in a shale boom after a sudden technological advance vastly increased the natural gas production that continues to this day. However, for all that, fracking has become quite controversial in the past few years. According to EnergyFromShale.org, here are the top ten things you should know about shale energy along with some resources from us on where you can find more detailed information.
This graphic (created by Dan Vergano and Karl Gelles for USA TODAY and posted 7/2/2012) does an excellent
job of showing the set up of a fracking site as well as some reasons why fracking is considered controversial.
1. Fracking is a huge part of our domestic natural gas and oil production.
In the future fracking will account for almost 70% of natural gas development in the US if it continues at its current rate. Without fracking, within five year 45% of natural gas production and 17% of oil production could be lost. Click HERE to see some of the percentages from April, 2015.
2. Fracking is a job machine.
In 2010, shale gas development supported 600,000 jobs, showing how revolutionary the economic impacts of developing shale gas resources are to the US economy. This number has only increased in the following years and is predicted to continue rising with continued production of natural gas and oil. Read in deatail the economic impacts of fracking HERE.
3. It's not a free-for-all.
For those thinking that the big companies in shall gas development are free to do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences, think again. Robust state and federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing already exist and every aspect of fracking is regulated by a comprehensive list of state, local, and federal laws.
4. The industry is always improving standards and practices.
As with many industries, the process for shale energy is always evolving to have higher standards and better practices all filed with the American National Standards Institute.
5. Ground water concerns.
A lot of thought has been put into keeping the ground water safe with carefully constructed wells - multiple layers made of up steel casing and cementing. (More about the casing process used for wells HERE.)
6. The contents of fracturing fluids aren't a secret.
An outcry for companies using hydraulic fracturing to reveal what is in the fracturing fluids has gotten louder in the past few years, however, the contents aren't a secret and can be accessed on FracFocus.org.
7. Yes, there is spill prevention.
A number of protective measures are in place to prevent spills - water is managed effectively and fluids are handled. Actually, a lot of forethought goes into setting up and starting a fracking site as you can see in the Marcellus Shale Coalition's (MSC) Recommended Practices: Site Planning, Development and Restoration.
8. Responsible waste management is a must.
Wastes from productions are managed responsibly - fracturing fluid is recovered and then reused in future fracturing operations. FracFocus.org has great information covering the various options for Fluid Handling HERE.
9. An earthquake watch isn't necessary.
Seismologists and geologists have not been able to prove that earthquakes are the direct result of the hydraulic fracturing process. A chart from EnergyFromShale.org shows that microseismic activity from fracking hits around a -2 to -3 on the Richter scale, which is not activity that is felt.
10. Air emissions are carefully watched.
Every aspect of fracking is carefully monitored and the air emissions are no different. They are closely monitored, managed and reported at fracking sites across the country. Natural gas is considered a low burning fuel because of the low emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, and nitrogen oxide.
Hydraulic fracturing has been around for a long time and is ever evolving to be as safe and environmentally conscious as possible while still being the economic powerhouse that it is. What are your thoughts on fracking and its impact? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook (Philippi-Hagenbuch, Inc.) / Twitter (@PHILsystems)!