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What Is Fracking and Why It May Be Dangerous to Our Land?

April 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 86

The Basics

Induced hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking is a process used to pull oil and natural gas that is trapped in deep rock beds up to the surface. It isn't a terribly new idea but only recently has it been heavily implemented in the drilling for natural resources. The basic concept behind hydraulic fracturing sounds safe and efficient. The companies carrying out the fracking promote it as being safe with many built-in precautions to make sure that there are no problems.

How Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Natural Gas is done

The oils and gasses are not just trapped right under the surface; they are trapped deep in the earth's crust, far below the ground water level. Most well are only dug down to the aquifer but to get to these other resources they have to go far below that. Much of the known resources being mined up through fracking are trapped in layers of shale rock. To get to this layer they use a large automated drill to dig a hole down to the depth needed. They then place a pipe down the hole which will be used to pump the fluids down and pull the resources back up. They are then supposed to case this pipe in several layers of cement to prevent any breaks or leaks. The well is then dug further into the shale rock and dug horizontally to maximize surface area to be mined up.

Small charges are set off along the horizontal length to break the rock up a little then a high pressure slurry of water, sand and chemicals is pumped down the pipe. The slurry expands the cracks and leaves behind the small particles of sand that hold the rock open allowing the trapped oil and gas to then rise to the surface through the pipe.

So What Is The Problem With Hydrofracking?

All of this actually sounds great. All of the action is done very deep in the ground and the main component is just water. The problem is that it's all just too good to be true. It actually requires thousands (up to hundreds of thousands) of gallons of water to get started and can use up to 5 million gallons of water to mine up a single well. The sheer volume of water isn't even the biggest problem. Chemical additives are put into the water to make it work better for the hydraulic fracturing. Although it's only a small % of the water that is chemicals, somewhere between 2-4%, when you're talking about millions of gallons that could be over 100,000 gallons of toxic chemicals including known carcinogens and neurotoxins that is mixed with the water and pumped into the earth.

Toxic water that has to be disposed of is not the only problem. Research has shown that the water that comes back up from deep in the earth also contains radioactive isotopes that are formed deep in the earth. The water that has to be disposed of is radioactive (far beyond what is considered safe for the environment) and toxic. This not only means there is a disposal problem but there is a problem if there is ever a leak. There are safety procedures in place, but accidents always happen. There have already been reports of spills and accidents causing ecological problems, killing off wildlife and leakage into the local aquifer layer contaminating ground water.

Toxic water isn't even the only issue that has come up with fracking. There have also been reports of seismic activity associated with it, leaks of toxic chemicals like methane into ground water, and concern over the transportation of all of the chemicals. Because of all these possibilities of severe environmental problems many countries have banned induced hydraulic mining or have ordered current operations to pause while more research is conducted. In the United States however, no government effort is being put forth to do significant research on the effects of fracking. In the meantime the state of Pennsylvania is being dug dry with little regard to any possible long-term negative effects, and they will likely not be the last.

Future Energy Blog is a place to learn and express your opinions about new energy technology for the future. The plans for fracking is just one of the important things to look at in the near future.

Source: EzineArticles
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