I wrote the following for the two hundred and fourth issue of The Culture of Awareness Weekly Newsletter.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of shooting hundreds of gallons of highly pressurized water with chemicals added into underground rock shielding natural gas reserves.
Along with the chemicals, the pressurized water breaks up the rock and allows the natural gas to be extracted.
As if oil companies weren’t depleting this precious natural resource enough; they now have a method to extract oil that seems even worse for the environment.
Proponents argue that fracking is a great way to access natural gas reserves that are otherwise inaccessible, but critics and lovers of the environment argue that it’s dangerous to the planet and especially to the water supplies of cities and towns near fracking sites.
Here, we’ll look at five damning facts about fracking that reveal that it isn’t as safe as Big Oil wants you to think.
Lobbyists and the oil companies they work for will forever try to convince the public fracking is okay and we have nothing to worry about, but these facts reveal that it’s dangerous and needs to come to an end.
Our first fact sheds light on the fracking process for those who don’t know how it works:
1. Fracking Consists of Two Techniques
According to Marc Lallanilla at Live Science, what we know as fracking consists of two different techniques: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling 1. Hydraulic fracturing has been in use since the 1940s, but horizontal drilling didn’t become popular until the 90s 1.
The process begins with a well being drilled vertically or at a specific angle 1. The well is drilled as deep down as one to two miles, and then, it’s encased in steel or cement to ensure it doesn’t leak into groundwater. 1
As we’ll learn later, it leaks anyway.
Once it reaches the layer of rock covering the oil, the well then curves at about 90 degrees and begins drilling horizontally along the rock layer 1. This horizontal drilling can extend up to a mile from the vertical well bore 1.
Once the well is drilled, the process of pumping the pressurized water begins 1. The chemical-laced water is pumped into the well at an “extremely high pressure”, and in some cases, the pressure exceeds 9,000 pounds per square inch 1.
This highly pressurized chemical water fractures the rock and frees the oil for extraction 1.
2. Chemical “Flowback Liquid” Is Pumped to the Surface with Extracted Oil
Marc writes that “flowback liquid” (i.e. leftover chemical water) is pumped to the surface along with the extracted natural gas 1. Millions of gallons of this stuff are pumped back up, and some of its contaminants include radioactive material, hydrocarbons, heavy metals and various other toxins 1.
It’s then stored in pits at the fracking site, disposed at an off-site wastewater treatment plant or injected back into wells deep underground 1. Most small-town wastewater treatment plants lack the funds to deal with millions of gallons of flowback water, creating problems for the environment and local communities 1.
3. Fracking Causes Earthquakes
You may have heard this on the news: there are places that never experienced a single earthquake until oil companies began fracking. Youngstown, Ohio is one such place.
Charles Q. Choi at Live Science writes that the geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale is one of the most profitable fracking areas 2. The underground shale reaches from Ohio and West Virginia to southern New York and Pennsylvania, and it’s estimated to contain up to 489 trillion cubic feet of natural gas 2.
Youngstown is located on the Marcellus Shale, and as you can probably imagine, oil companies seized the opportunity to frack near the town in 2010, bringing the “Northstar 1 injection well” into operation 2.
As a result, Youngstown had its first ever recorded earthquakes – 109 of them in one year – since researchers in the area began observing potential seismic activity in 1776 2.
Let me repeat that for emphasis: Youngstown had not experienced one earthquake in over 200 years until fracking began there. Then, it experienced over a hundred quakes in one year. Let that sink in.
(Continued in this week’s reader’s question)
- “Facts About Fracking” by Marc Lallanilla, Live Science:
- “Fracking Practices to Blame for Ohio Earthquakes” by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science:
By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness, July 3, 2016 – http://tinyurl.com/z7rv7j6