Hydraulic fracturing is a process that drills into the ground and injects fluid at extreme pressure to fracture shale and release the natural gas held inside. If you have ever wondered what is fracking for oil, the above description is the simplest definition. This commercial drilling process has been used for more than 65 years. Advanced fracturing combined with horizontal drilling, and revolutionary technologies, is generally responsible for the increase in the production of natural gas and oil.
This process requires tapping the shale and various tight formations of rock with a hydraulic drill. The drilling goes a mile below the surface and then turns horizontally and continues for one thousand feet. One surface drilling site is able to accommodate numerous wells. After drilling is complete, the well is cased and cemented and small holes are made in the horizontal part of the pipe.
Using extreme pressure, a mixture of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand and 0.5 percent additives is pumped through the holes and creates micro fractures in the shale. The grains of sand hold open the small fractures. The additives help decrease friction which in turn reduces the pressure of pumping of diesel power to reduce the amount of air released. This will increase efficiency of the well, prevent corrosion of the pipe, and protect the ecosystem.
This hydraulic fracturing process is the reason for the abundance of energy. It has helped improve the outlook for the future. This technique provides a way to access natural gas and oil reserves. Without this process, these resources would be left untapped under sale and rock. Fracturing is also used on older wells to encourage new oil production.
Hydraulic fracturing is a hot political and environmental issue. Advocates of this process maintain that it is a safe, economical way to harvest energy. They maintain that this technique is a clean and safe way to harness power to meet the country’s energy need for years. The method will improve the ability to generate heat for homes, electricity, and fuel for automobiles.
On the other hand, critics say that it destroys water supplies, pollutes the air, and contributes to greenhouse gas causing global warming. In addition, opponents say the method causes many health problems due to contamination and pollutants. Research has shown that drinking water near fracturing sites has dangerous levels of methane requiring urgent abatement actions.
Those who oppose this type of drilling are concerned with the storage and disposal of wastewater. This liquid contains contaminants such as hydrocarbons, radioactive material, and heavy metals. Stored on the site, the wastewater is injected into underground wells or pits. It is also disposed of at wastewater treatment facilities off site.
While this process of extracting oil and gas is used globally, the increase of the use of this technique in the US is due to concerns for the security and cost of importing. There are two very profitable areas in the US. The first is the stretch from Canada to Texas and the Great Lakes area. There is an area called the Marcellus Shale that runs from New York to Ohio and then to Virginia.