Fracking is a drilling technique used in the oil and natural gas industry.
The term is short for ‘hydraulic fracturing’. It is not a completely new phenomenon. Fracking has been around for over 50 years but has in recent years been improved.
Fracking is the biggest reason the U.S. has surged ahead of the world in the production of oil and natural gas.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting a mixture of water, sand and additives at high pressures into a well-pipe thousands of feet beneath the ground. This causes micro fractures which are then held open by the sand.
In greater detail, the process begins with the vertical drilling of a well which is 1 to 2 miles deep or more. This well is then covered in steel or cement to safeguard against any leaks from the well into groundwater. As soon as the well reaches the rock where the oil or gas is present, horizontal drilling begins along that layer of rock. This drilling may extend more than a mile from the vertical borehole.
When the well has been drilled and covered, the fracking liquid (often called slickwater is pumped into the well at a very high pressure sometimes over 9,000 pounds per square inch. This high pressure has the force to fracture the rock, which creates cracks and fissures for the oil and gas to flow.
Hydraulic fracturing started 1947 as an experiment and it was first successfully carried out in 1950. By the year 2012, about 2.5 million fracking jobs had been carried out globally with U.S. performing over a million of them.
Vital to the Economy
The economy of the United States has been greatly helped thanks to fracking. Nowadays, the U.S. does not depend so much on oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia as it did in the past. Fracking has also made the country less dependent on Russia for natural gas. This, therefore, means that the United States will likely be an exporter of natural gas and oil in the future.
Fracking is considered by some people in the Prairies of North Dakota as a modern embodiment of the American dream. Bakken Play which was once an area with a stagnant economic growth is now the largest fracking site in America and is full of millionaires. Also, the tribal land owned by the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation was leased for drilling which has produced 30 million barrels of oil together with a profit of over $500 million since 2010.
Fracking is a lengthy process and involves numerous steps at every stage. The drilling process is carried out throughout the entire day and when they discover the oil and gas, they are supposed to be transported. This practice has provided hundreds of people with jobs which they can do to take care of themselves and their families. Just a single activity of fracking involves office personnel, engineers, skilled workers together with other employees. Unemployment rates in the states where fracking was carried out dropped due to the great job opportunities which fracking provided.
Lesser Carbon Emissions
Fracking is considered to be more environment-friendly as compared to the hazardous gases which are being emitted from the burning of fossil fuels. It is believed that the process does not only give an abundant supply of electricity but also emits less carbon into the atmosphere thereby making it a better alternative to fossil fuels. It also supplies the country with enough natural gas until the time when the world will get enough energy supply from renewable energy sources such as the wind and the sun. In the year 2015, CO2 emissions in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level in 20 years.
A Reduction in the Prices of Oil and Gas
Thanks to fracking, the price of oil is 20% cheaper than before. At the start of 2014, the United States experienced a drop in the price of oil from $100 a barrel to $60 a barrel. In America, the prices of natural gas have dropped in the last 5 years. This has resulted in natural gas being 80% cheaper here as compared to the rest of the globe.
Hydraulic fracturing & natural gas are comparatively cleaner and efficient, but not perfect.
The amount of water required in a fracking operation can be quite staggering. Millions of gallons of water are needed both in the subsurface operation and during the extraction processes at the surface. Water will not always be an inexhaustible resource.
Natural gas operations do not constitute a zero sum alternative to coal or oil. There are still emissions associated with this industrial practice, though they are on average half as polluting as coal.
Greenhouse Gas leaks
When fracturing occurs, there can sometimes be inadvertent leaks of gases, particularly methane, which is considered a pollutant and is an undesirable emission when it does happen. Further leaks do occur during storage and transportation of natural gas. Critics of fracking assert that increased demand for natural gas and the subsequent leaks associated with the processes both on-site and in the downstream[link] sector negate the supposed benefits of the practice.
False Claims by Environmentalists
– Based on the findings of Ed Feulner, environmentalists such as the Sierra Club laid claims that fracking is a danger to the environment. On their website, they said it has led to the contamination of the drinking water of many Americans. This claim was disproved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the completion of the most reliable studies of fracking. They found no evidence of any widespread effects on drinking water in the U.S. as earlier claimed by the Sierra Club.
– According to Chris Faulkner’s findings, environmentalists claim that fracking damages the land which surrounds a drilling rig. This was not true because the drilling activities did not involve heavy equipment, trucks, and equipment to store waste. Waste products were carefully disposed of and any effect on the surface was easily repaired. Also, the waste products were being converted to distilled water and de-icing agents.
– Environmentalists also claimed that fracking causes earthquakes. The National Research Council was assigned by Congress to study what fracking and earthquakes had in common. There are close to 14,450 earthquakes which occur naturally around the globe every year. Based on the findings of the National Research Council, only a total of 154 earthquakes in the past 90 years have come about as a result of man’s activities. Out of that number, just 60 occurred in the U.S. and almost all were moderate. The report by the Council finally concluded that fracking is an unlikely cause of earthquakes.
Based on all these findings, it should be noted that environmentalists may never acknowledge the fact that fracking is safe or applaud it for the help it has offered. This does not necessarily imply that the rest of us should believe in their pessimistic views. This is because fracking has helped the economy in more ways than we can think of and continues to do so as time goes by.