Fracking

Kainaat Sarfaraz. 21 November, 2016.

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracking, also known as hydrofracturing or hydrofracking, is a method of extracting oil and natural deposits found deep in the ground which has been commercially in use for 65 years. From it, we gain fossil fuels which are the main energy sources that power nearly every aspect of our lives.

As illustrated in the diagram above, a large drill vertically digs gas wells through layers of the ground, after measurements are made to pinpoint the exact position and how deep the shale is. Shale is a type of sedimentary rock that contains deposits of natural gas. In the USA, these wells can go down 6,000 to 10,000 feet underground. Then a mixture, which is made mostly of water, sand and chemicals, is pumped through these gas wells at pressures as high as 62050000 Pa. This mixture, generally contains, about 600–800 gallons of water which is about 100 times more than used in other extraction processes, and up to 600 different chemicals, keeping in mind, a gas well can be used multiple times. Though companies don’t specifically disclose which chemicals used, analysis of these chemicals found include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, all which pose threat to the environment.
These high pressures cause cracks to appear in the shale rock, releasing natural gas, which then rises to the surface where it is then collected. The water remaining can’t be disposed of simply due to the extensive amount of dangerous chemicals mixed within. Water is placed in gas and waste wells for extended periods of time.
Fracking has brought along a large range of jobs, which in this economy, is welcomed with open arms. Burning gas releases less CO₂ than other fuels, such as coal which helps to improve air quality. Having a supply to natural gas, means that countries can start to become less reliant on other countries for supply of fuel. This is especially beneficial in a worst-case scenario, when supplies reach an all-time low, supplying countries abruptly end any previous negated deals to make their supply last longer for themselves. Taxes can be lowered as if there is a higher reserve of natural gas and oil available; this makes them easier to obtain leading to lower pricing which in turn decreases taxes.

More time is also gained to find alternative, renewable resources as we can make our fossil fuels last longer due to being able to access deposits that other extraction methods haven’t been able to gain. 
On the other end of the argument, areas around fracking locations have been found to be plagued with drought. Some people also argue with the unfairness of the situation that large energy companies can take up such enormous supplies of water, which is required for fracking while there are areas with droughts that are caused naturally which require water urgently. On the subject of water, energy companies can mix in dangerous chemicals, which they aren’t legally obliged to name in some countries, into the water. This starts to manifest as a greater problem when water sweeps through the earth. From this chemicals can end up in various bodies of waters like reservoirs. Fracking is a loud project that lasts a significant duration of time and as it occurs throughout day and night, meaning it contributes its own share of not only noise pollution, but also light pollution, the effects of which are well known to people living around the extraction area. Finding a way to stretch non-renewable resources, has decreased motivation to search for renewable energy sources leading to less development in the search. There also have been a lot of talk on fracking being the cause of earthquakes, though the articles on such ‘facts’ do seem to vary from one and another.
Fracking, as any other extraction project, it a conversational topic has its own fair share of advantages and disadvantages. It has attracted the attention of many environmentalists, sparked many anti-fracking rallies, and appeared in pop culture and will thus continue to do so as awareness of the method continues to spread.

Bibliography:

HowStuffWorks

Conserve- energy-future

Further Reading:

The Green and the Black: The Complete Story of the Shale Revolution, the Fight Over Fracking, and the Future of Energy (Gary Sernovitz)

The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World (Russell Gold)