A Little Research Goes a Long Way
It’s amazing what you can learn with a little research. Unfortunately, we’ve been hearing a lot of commentary on the practices and processes involved in oil and gas development from a lot of folks who seem to do little to educate themselves on the subject. It’s a troubling trend, especially when the benefits of oil and natural gas development in the Utica Shale (at this early stage), are already coming to fruition.
Over the past several years, hydraulic fracturing (sometimes referred to as “fracking”), a process used in oil and gas drilling, has become a household term, with many worried about fracturing’s ill effects on wildlife and the safety of groundwater. This craze of false facts has led to many misinformed people, who believe that hydraulic fracturing is a new technology that contaminates drinking water and causes earthquakes. In reality, all of these concerns can be rebuked with simple research into the hydraulic fracturing process.
Hydraulic fracturing does not happen during the drilling process; rather, it happens later as a tool for opening rock into tiny fractures to allow oil and gas to flow freely to the drilled pipeline (). The Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Production calls hydraulic fracturing “relatively new,” but the process has been used on 90% of wells as part of standard drilling procedure in Ohio and the United States since 1955 (MacKenzie, PowerPoint). Hydraulic fracturing allows drillers to gather 30% of our nation’s oil and gas supply that would otherwise be unobtainable. The fracturing process follows the drilling of the well and installation of telescoping intervals or strings of casing (pipe) encased in concrete. Once the pipe hits the depth of ten thousand feet, the drilling switches to horizontal. Once the hole is completely drilled, a fluid consisting of mainly water flows into the hole and out of the pipe and is pressurized to create tiny fractures in the rock layer, allowing trapped oil and gas to flow to the pipeline. This process repeats along the entire horizontal pipeline.
Hydraulic fracturing opponents have expressed concerns that the fluid used to open and hold open the fractures contaminates and poisons water sources. However, the fluid is made up of “small amounts ()” of chemicals, containing 99.51 percent water, and the other parts include mainly proppants (used in play sand), sodium chloride (table salt), borate salts (commonly found in laundry detergents), guar gum (a key ice cream ingredient), citric acids (lemon juice), potassium chloride (salt substitute), ammonium bisulfite (used in water treatment), and Glutaraldehyd (a common dental equipment sterilizer) (). In fact, the United States Department of the Interior, among other organizations, has stated that “we have not seen any impacts to groundwater as a result of hydraulic fracturing,” and the United States Environmental Protection Agency states that all fracturing fluids are treated for chemicals after the process, and as a result, there are “no contaminants at levels of concern” ().
A groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing has never been recorded (MacKenzie), although the for the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Production displays photographs from a recent protest, showing men and women displaying signs reading, “Water and fracking don’t mix,” “Clean water is a human right,” “Fracking kills,” and “Save our water,” among others. These signs have two things in common: First, both refer to the supposed water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing, and second, both base these assumptions on untrue statistics and information. In fact, each state has a regulatory agency that oversees all oil and gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing, and none have ever reported a case of contamination. Every state government requires drilling companies to disclose their entire list of fluid components, and most companies voluntarily list well-specific data for fracturing fluid on .
The public fears about hydraulic fracturing have no legitimate concerns. Far from harming the environment, poisoning drinking water, and causing earthquakes, hydraulic fracturing allows oil and gas geologists to drill more productive wells in a more economically friendly way. Hydraulic fracturing is an established part of oil and gas drilling and is a major reason why American wells have been successful.
American Petroleum Institute. Energy Tomorrow. American Petroleum Institute., 2012. www.API.org 27 March 2012.
Dir. Domestic Energy Producers Alliance. DEPA Hydraulic Fracturing. Perf. Vance Long. Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, 2010. Film.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Natural Gas Extraction – Hydraulic Fracturing. EPA, 2012. www.epa.gov 19 May 2012.
Fuller, Lee. Energy in Depth. Independent Petroleum Association of America. 2012. www.kbcsandbox7.com/eid 27 March 2012.
The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council. FracFocus – Chemical Disclosure Registry. The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Groundwater Protection Council, 2012. www.fracfocus.com 27 March 2012.
MacKenzie, Peter. OOGA. Ohio Oil and Gas Association, 2012. www.ooga.org. 27 March 2012.
MacKenzie, Peter. “Presentation to American Political Thought and Radicalism Class.” Ohio Oil and Gas Association, 2012. Microsoft PowerPoint file.
Neogap. Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection. NEOGAP, 2012. www.neogap.org. 27 March, 2012.
United States Fossil Energy Office of Communications. Hydraulic Fracturing Technology. United States Department of Energy, 2011. www.energy.gov.