No, fracking is not the latest twerking move, although the name seems quite perfect for the popular dance craze. So what exactly is this strange sounding thing?
What is “fracking”?
Fracking is a hydraulic method of drilling deep into the earth with the goal of releasing gas (“What is Fracking?”). This technique, which has been in use on a commercial level for over sixty five years, is at the core of burgeoning oil and natural gas production in the United States. The process utilizes vertical, or more prevalently horizontal drilling, in combination with use of a high-pressure water solution which in combination spurs shale rocks to release natural gases which escape into a well. One fracking site can have numerous wells (“What is Fracking?”). This custom-written sample paper has been brought to you by Ultius, the leading provider in academic content solutions.
Gas release occurs by drilling miles below the earth’s surface, then redirecting the drilling process horizontally for an additional few thousand feet or more. After drilling is complete, the well is cased and then cemented (Hoffman). Then fissures are created in the horizontal section of the pipe. Thereafter, the high pressure solution, often a mixture primarily of water, sand and additives, is buffeted through the pipe at high thrust creating small fractures in the rock, plied by the bits of sand. The additives provide a number of solutions including limiting friction, which in turn reduces air emissions; and precluding corrosive reactions in the pipes, serving to safeguard the environment and support the efficient functioning of the well (Hoffman).
Why engage in fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing, longhand for fracking, is at the root of the American energy renaissance, reduced gas pricing and the journey toward U. S. energy self-sufficiency (“What is Fracking”). Oil and natural gas, padlocked by shale and related tight rock configurations, is being freed for commercial utilization through the process of fracking (“What is Fracking?”). The majority of natural gas wells penetrated in the near future, along with formerly perforated wells soon to be reinvigorated, will exploit the hydraulic fracturing process.
Many young people do not remember the gas and oil crisis that occurred in the 1970s. Perhaps they were babies sleeping in the back seat of the car, while mom or dad sat in line waiting to get gas. Major gas shortages occurred in 1973 and again in 1979, and those who were subjected to them could either not use their cars or found themselves in a line of automobiles that could be over 50 cars long. You could get to the gas station in the middle of the night and either park your car in the line, or sleep in your car while waiting for the station to open.
Then you would sit there for hours, not daring to move because you could conceivably loose your place in line. Governors in some states required gas rationing. If your license plate had an odd number, you were allowed to pump gas on an odd numbered day. This was due to the insolent policies of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which had flexed its attitudinal muscles and discombobulated U. S. oil supplies effectively sending Americans to their knees (Hale). Anyone who remembers the oil shortage scare, or who actually sat in their car waiting in line for hours, not certain if they could get to work, at a minimum, understands the need for U. S. energy self-sufficiency.
OPEC’s oil embargo was based on U. S. response to the Yom Kippur War (“Responding to Crisis”). Syria and Egypt attacked Israel in a surprise military maneuver, and as a result, the U. S. provided Israel with arms and munitions to be able to stand their ground. In response to the U. S. political reaction, OPEC instituted an oil embargo against the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands. The embargo not only had a major effect on international relations, but had a major impact on the intense increase in the price of gas and oil (“Responding to Crisis”).
The history of fracking
Fracking has been around since the 1860s (MacRae). Unlike the tools of today, gunpowder was the original technology, and then:
. . . liquid nitroglycerin, delivered down the well within an “exploding torpedo” patented by Lt. Col. Edward A. Roberts in 1865-1866. He first introduced his technique in the oil fields around the industry’s Titusville, PA, birthplace, and it quickly spread across the Appalachian oil producing region covering New York, West Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio (MacRae).
Robert’s success caused nitroglycerin to become the new medium of choice, but not without significantly increased dangers (MacRae). One false move could mean disaster to the operator. The 1930s instituted the use of non-explosive technology. In 1949, Halliburton patented Hydrafrac, which inspired significant increase in its use and production of gas overall. In 2003, producers have scrutinized U. S. shale formations to our benefit. The United States has an abundance of oil and gas ready to ship as a result (MacRae).
What is the Economic Impact of Fracking?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says the U. S. will increase its gas production by 56 percent by 2040 (“What is Fracking”). Shale based natural gas will be the most significant contributor to that projected growth. It is expected that shale will represent 53% of production in 2040. Fracking is driving an American transformation in the energy space. The shale gas rush is translating to a U. S. economic boom (Dews). The advance of fracking is causing the consistent drop in natural gas prices, consumers are seeing stunning drops in their gas bills, and in a somewhat unusual result, all regions across the U. S. are boasting economic benefits (Dews). At the time when the United States needed an economic boost, Obama’s non-restrictive policies allowed fracking to advance unfettered, delivering both job growth and economic stimulation (Mikulska, Maher & Medlock).
The current democratic candidates do not share Obama’s delight with hydraulic fracturing.
Bernie Sanders has called for a full nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing. Hillary Clinton promises tough restrictions, so great in fact that, as she stated, “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where frac’ing will continue to take place” (Mikulska, Maher & Medlock).
What is the environmental Impact of fracking?
Sanders and Clinton, however, are not the only ones not excited about the incredible economic implications of fracking. One of the most significant environmental concerns heard over and again is that fracking has a negative effect on ground water and can leach into the water table dispersing heavy toxic metals into our drinking water (Hoffman). Other concerns include air extensive water use in areas with limited supplies, earthquakes, pollution, methane pollution as it relates to climate change, toxic and heavy metal exposure, explosions, waste disposal, safety in the workplace, and impact on area infrastructure (Hoffman).
If the adverse environmental impact were true, it would certainly be a concerning consideration. However, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a recently released draft report, indicates that if produced responsibly and safely, the process is not an environmental concern that cannot be properly managed (Krancer). The benefits far exceed the detriments.
- Fracking technology, both above and below ground, needs to be utilized in a responsible manner to avoid negative environmental impact.
- In a very few isolated instances accidents have occurred impacting drinking water supplies negatively, but in very insubstantial circumstances.
- Fracking has not led to broad systemic adverse effects on U. S. drinking water.
- Mechanisms used in fracking have not led to broad systemic adverse effects on U. S. drinking water.
- The advance of fracking has had a substantial impact on the U. S. economy and security (Krancer).
What are the health implications of fracking?
The health implications of fracking are many. A risk assessment was conducted on the prospective health risks of chemicals used while engaging in the entire hydraulic fracture process, which includes “drilling, fracking, processing and delivery” (Hoffman). Six hundred and thirty two chemicals were identified as used in the fracking process and seventy five percent of those “chemicals could affect the skin, eyes,and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.” Another forty to fifty percent could have a major impact on the kidneys, cardiovascular, nervous, and immune systems, to name a few.
The difficulty is that fracking toxins require long-term analysis, due to the time it takes for the consequences to become apparent (Hoffman). Studies made by the Colorado School of Public Health, of the University of Colorado, indicate that although there is limited in-depth information on the impact of fracking, when health consequences related to health problems that arise from more conventional drilling, the closer a person is to the drilling site, the more of a health risk the person will have (Hoffman).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have health risk impact studies yet, however, Christopher J. Portier, PhD, a director at the CDC, has called for studies to be conducted as it relates to fracking (Hoffman). A startling statistic published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal indicated that the state and federal group assigned to review health implications of fracking in the Marcellus shale area did not have a single health expert among the list of fifty two persons who made up the boards and commissions (Hoffman).
Where are shales located?
There are a number of shale plays, or shale formations across the United States, including the Fayetteville Shale, across Arkansas; the Utica Shale, spans Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee Kentucy, Virginia, Ohio and even Canada; the Marcellus Shale, similar to the Utica Shale, spans many of the same states; the Haynesville Shale crosses Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas; the Eagle Ford Shale resides in Texas; the Barnett Shale is located in Texas, as well; and the Bakken Shale spans North Dakota and Montana (“What is Fracking?”).
Who are the major players in fracking?
The major state players in the hydraulic fraction business are Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and North Dakota. The most well known companies are Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil Corporation and ConocoPhillips Company and Halliburton.
The United States is winning the energy war, and at least for now, it does not look as though we need to be concerned from an economic perspective. There should be no more cars lining up for gas rations like in the 1970s. But if companies fail to properly manage the hydraulic fracturing process to ensure that health and the environment is properly nurtured, the consequences will likely be fast and furious.
Dews, Fred. “The economic benefits of fracking.” Brookings. The Brookings Institution. 25 March 2015. Web. 8 April 2016. .
Hale, Leon. “Not missing the gas lines of the 1970s.” Chron. Hearst Newspapers, LLC. 20 August 2012. Web. 8 April 2016. .
Hoffman, Joe. “Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana.” Geology and Human Health. The Cutting Edge NAGT Web. 8 April 2016. .
Krancer, Michael. “EPA Report Shows (Yet Again) Fracking’s Negligible Impact On Drinking Water Is Well Worth The Risks.” Forbes. Forbes, Inc. 4 June 2015. Web. 8 April 2016. .
MacRae, Michael. “Fracking: A Look Back.” ASME. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. December 2012. Web. 8 April 2016. .
Mikulska, Anna, Maher, Michael and Medlock III, Kenneth B. “Hillary, Bernie, Hydraulic Fracturing and The Future Of US Oil and Gas Production.” Forbes. Forbes, Inc. 25 March 2016. Web. 8 April 2016. .
“Responding to Crisis.” Nelson Institute. The Board of Regents University of Wisconsin. 6 April 2010. Web. 8 April 2016. .
“What is Fracking?” What is Fracking. EnergyFromShale.org. Web. 8 April 2016. .