Fracking has been a hot topic in the United Statesin recent years, but did you know that the concept of fracking has actually been around for several decades? Read on to find out all you need to know about fracking.
Hydraulic fractures form naturally in rock layers, caused by the presence of high-pressure fluids that cause the rocks to fracture. The oil and gas industry has taken this natural occurrence one step further by creating their own hydraulic fractures in order to get to petroleum, natural gas, or coal seam gas buried deep under ground.
It is this procedure, along with the injection of fracking chemicals (a mixture of chemicals that helps break down rock faster than water) that has led to the concerns over what fracking is doing to the natural environment.
Two types of wells are drilled: horizontal and vertical. Vertical wells are most common, and have been drilled for many years, while horizontal wells are much more recent. They are drilled parallel to the rock layer targeted for extraction. The overall technique allows oil and gas companies to reach depths of 5,000 to 20,000 feet. At that depth, the fracking of rock is vital to enable natural gas and oil to flow from the rock to the well borehole.
The Marcellus Shale, stretching along the Appalachian basin and across several eastern states, is perhaps the epicenter of fracking in the United States. The number of marcellus wells in Pennsylvania alone has gone from 196 wells in 2008, to 1592 projected wells for 2011. The rush to cash in on the energy source has been mired in criticism due to several reports and numerous accounts of drilling activities contaminating drinking water.
Visit EnergyNOW! to hear EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and read other articles and reports on hydraulic fracturing.
In line with the concern, the EPA recently announced a fracking study plan set to take place over the next several years.
“The agency announced last year that it will study the natural gas extraction technique, which involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break up underground rock formations and release trapped gas. The aim of the study is to determine whether the process, also called “fracking,” affects drinking water supplies.” (EPA Releases Fracking Plan, EnergyNOW.com)
Three of the 7 locations that will be tested are in Pennsylvania. A preliminary report is expected next year, with the full report available by 2014.
Its clear this will be a contentious issue as long as environmental concerns abound, and as long as the energy payoff is so high. Energy companies will be lining up to drill for oil and gas. The next couple years will determine whether the activity can be completed safely and successfully, or if the technique is too dangerous to our drinking water.