Hydraulic fracturing is one of the most effective methods of retrieving fossil fuels out of shale, but it comes at a price. They can be environmental and safety consequences associated with the practice of “fracking.”
Hydraulic fracturing is expected to account for nearly 75% of natural gas development in the future.
The issue isn’t that the US or the rest of world could use the fossil fuels that hydraulic fracturing could release. It isn’t even the fact that shale energy reserves could dramatically reduce the heating, cooling, and transportation costs that are paid every day so that better economic prosperity could be achieved. The issue is that there are enough chemicals and silica used in fracking that workers take on great risks to do their jobs and those risks may apply to the community around a wellhead too.
- Without hydraulic fracturing, we would lose 45% of domestic natural gas production and 17% of our oil production within 5 years.
- The development of oil and natural gas shale resources supported more than 2.1 million jobs in 2012.
- The American Chemistry Council determined that a 25% increase in the supply of ethane, which is a liquid that comes from shale gas, would result in 400,000 extra jobs and over $4 billion in extra annual revenues.
- The National Association of Manufacturers estimated that high recovery of shale gas and lower natural gas prices will help U.S. manufacturers employ up to 1,000,000 workers by 2025.
- Because of hydraulic fracturing, the average amount of disposable income for an American household went up by $1,200 and is expected to save up to $3,500 by 2025.
- As for safety, by early 2012, nearly 100 hundred companies have already provided information about approximately 10,000 existing wells.
- Only .5% of the fracturing mixture makeup is made up of additives that aid in well production. 90% of fracturing fluid is just water.
There are strong feels for hydraulic fracturing and against it. Although alternative fuels might provide out society with a chance to get rid of fossil fuel use one day, the simple fact is that right now, those technologies are not financially viable or as efficient as the energy that is produced by hydraulic fracturing. Because it creates a lot of jobs and saves families money, completely getting rid of the practice doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense right now. What we can do, however, is work toward a safer fracturing process that won’t create massive sludge ponds, slurry lakes, and other potential health hazards that can hurt people, the environment, and local habitats.
Hydraulic Fracturing Is Not A New Technology
- More than 1.2 million wells in the United States have been completed via the process of hydraulic fracturing since 1947.
- There are more than 500,000 active natural gas wells in the United States right now.
- Over the past 60 years, hydraulic fracturing has been used for a wide variety of purposes, from stimulating the flow of water from water wells, to bringing geothermal wells into commercial viability.
- In over 65 years of use, there has not been a documented case of ground water contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing.
- Since 1821, there have been 75,000 wells created to access natural gas in New York state alone.
- In 2004, about 2% of the natural gas that was produced in the United States came from shale reserves.
- The amount of natural gas unlocked by hydraulic fracturing has increased this percentage to 37% as of 2014.
The amount of natural gas that the United States consumes is enormous. On average, about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is consumed. Just one shale reserve in the US, however, is estimated to have over 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas contained within it. That means there is plenty of domestic energy that can be accessed right now as alternative energy projects are researched, developed, and refined so that they can be affordably accessed in the future. Hydraulic fracturing has also reduced petroleum imports by almost 50% since 2004. All of this means that Americans are working toward becoming energy independent and that will eventually save them money and end their dependence on foreign supplies.
What Are The Dangers Of Hydraulic Fracturing?
- Each gas well requires about 400 tanker trucks to carry water and supplies to and from the site, something that isn’t always calculated into environmental impact studies.
- The amount of silica that is used in the fracking process requires workers to wear personalized protective equipment to prevent the development of silicosis.
- It may take up to 8 million gallons of water to complete just one well through hydraulic fracturing.
- Even though chemicals and additives account for just 0.5% of the fracking solution, this means up to 40,000 gallons of chemicals are used in a well.
- Although guar is a main additive in fracking, knowing toxins and carcinogens are also added, including lead, mercury, and radium.
- A well can be fracked up to 18 times, with each time requiring the up to 8 million gallons of water.
- The end result is that hydraulic fracturing may require up to 360 billion gallons of chemicals to be used for well maintenance.
These statistics are why people are concerned about the process of hydraulic fracturing and rightly so. 360 billion gallons of chemicals that are going into the ground have to go somewhere. Although contamination into the water supply hasn’t been documented, this doesn’t necessarily mean it hasn’t occurred. Add to that the exposure risks and other issues that workers and communities face with fracking and the health hazards may pose more of a risk than some might be willing to take just so that local economics can improve. The basic technology hasn’t improved in 60 years. If we can make computers fit into glasses and watches, then we should be able to improve fracking too.