What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

By Nicholas Idler
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a
technology used in drilling for oil and natural
Most of the water
used in the
fracking process
is retrieved from
well immediately
and the rest
eventually flows
up with the
natural gas and
The waste water is usually transferred to a
treatment pond where it is treated so that it can
be used again.
Another option for waste water is to place it in
an isolated well where it evaporates
Hydraulic Fracturing, along with horizontal
drilling technology, helps energy company’s to tap
previously unobtainable sources of the natural gas
from shale
Natural gas - Colourless, highly flammable
gaseous hydrocarbon consisting primarily of
methane and ethane. It commonly occurs in
association with crude oil (Merriam-Webster).
Also may contain: Carbon dioxide, hydrogen,
hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, helium, and argon
Hydrocarbons - Any of a class of organic
compounds composed only of carbon and
hydrogen (Merriam-Webster) .
Are the principal constituents of petroleum and
natural gas (Merriam-Webster).
Serve as fuels, lubricants, and raw materials for
production of plastics, fibers, rubbers, solvents,
explosives, and industrial chemicals (MerriamWebster).
300 million years ago prehistoric animals living
in swamps and oceans died and began to
decompose (U.S. Department of Energy, 2012).
After millions of years of pressure and
“cooking”, these organisms eventually formed
oil and natural gas (U.S. Department of Energy,
500 B.C.
Many cultures saw geysers of
fire, usually believing them
to be devine messages
The Chinese formed crude
pipelines to transport natural
gas (NaturalGas.org).
Britain use natural gas
Eventually, Britain would
transport oil to the U.S.
where it was used to light the
streets of Baltimore
 Acid was used to stimulate a well instead of
explosives (Montgomery, Smith, 2010).
When acid was used to stimulate a well instead
of explosive, the idea of “pressure parting” was
discovered (Montgomery, Smith, 2010).
 Standard Oil introduced hydraulic fracturing
(Montgomery, Smith, 2010).
 By 2010, there had been close to 2.5 million
hydraulic fracturing treatments throughout the
world the technology’s introduction (Montgomery,
Smith, 2010)
Due to evidence suggesting that hydraulic
fracturing may cause contamination of ground
water, we should place regulations on the
technology to restrict the practice from being
done near communities to make sure we don’t
contaminate drinking water while research is
being done.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic
natural gas production from shale is expected to nearly triple over the 25-year
period 2010-2035 (Kamarshi, B., Kurtz, J., Soulsby, R., 2012) .
(Kamarshi, B., Kurtz, J., Soulsby, R., 2012)
It’s used for electricity
The U.S. produces 20 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas per
year (netl.doe.gov, 2011).
1 Tcf of natural gas is enough to heat 15 million homes or fuel 12
million natural-gas-fired vehicles for 1 year (netl.doe.gov)
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOP), domestic
natural gas resources contribute to economic growth by creating
jobs (netl.doe.gov, 2011).
The DOE also claims that high volume of natural gas will make
the price less expensive for businesses that rely on it, thus less jobs
will be lost to overseas competitors (netl.doe.gov, 2011).
Drilling at its current pace is estimated to
directly add 8,000 to 10,500 jobs in the next 5
years, according to the Pennsylvania College of
Technology’s Marcellus Shale Education and
Training Center (MSETC) (swarthmore.edu).
some estimates indicate that activity will be
high for up to 30 years (retrain-america.com)
The U.S. is second
only to China in
natural gas (Hart,
Weiss, 2011)
According to the IEA,
natural gas will
overtake oil as the
most-used fuel in the
U.S. by 2030 (Carr,
(Hart, Weiss, 2011)
Many fracturing fluid chemicals are known to
be toxic to humans and wildlife, and several
are known to cause cancer
Petroleum distillates (kerosene and
diesel fuel):
• Benzene*
• Ehylbenzene
• Toluene
• Xylene
• Naphthalene
* benzene, a known human
carcinogen that is toxic in water at
levels greater than five parts per
billion (or 0.005 parts per million).
Also in Fracking mixtures:
• Polycyclic
• Aromatic hydrocarbons
• Methanol
• Formaldehyde
• Ethylene Glycol
• Glycol ethers
• Hydrochloric acid
• Sodium hydroxide
Energy Companies like to point out that only 0.52.0% of fracking fluid is made up of chemicals and
the rest is sand (earthworksaction.org).
When considering how much water and sand is
used, that can equal a lot of chemicals
A 4 million gallon fracturing operation would use
80 – 330 tons of chemicals (earthworksaction.org).
Due to the Halliburton Loophole, the EPA hasn’t
been able to place many regulations to protect
Several studies have raised suspicions that
fracking may cause contamination of ground
water, but those who support the practice maintain
that the evidence does not prove it
The EPA is researching at multiple hydraulic
fracturing operations through out the country
The EPA found chemicals associated with fracking in
groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming (Gruver, 2011).
The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at
Austin, US. - Most groundwater contamination is
related to above-ground spills of fracking fluids,
poorly-handled wastewater, faulty cement jobs and
failed well casings (Fracking risks to groundwater
analyzed, (2012)
Tom Meyers found that preferential flow of fracking
water through fractures can cause contamination of
aquifers (Myers, 2012)
The Safe Drinking Water Act was issued by the
EPA in 1974
The Bush Administration passed a law known as
the Halliburton Loophole, which to authority away
from the EPA to be able to regulate underground
injections by fracking companies (Hines, 2012)
The basis behind the loophole is that technology is
not subject to the Safe Water Drinking Act if they
do not use diesel fuel (Hines, 2012)
Their argument - “You can’t prove Santa Clause exists”.
Mine - “Then prove he doesn’t!”
When dealing with our most important resource, water, we
need to be careful.
It sure seems like fracking contaminates groundwater, so go
frak where it’s not going to hurt anyone until we figure
things out
Regulations on where Hydraulic Fracturing can be done are
necessary and they should be implemented as soon as
possible and stay at least until we settle the fracking
Sure the economy is tough, but we can’t undermine our own safety
If we continue to let fracking be done, we risk having very limited water
Help raise awareness of the risks of hydraulic fracturing
Look for it in ballot boxes
Tell Representatives to bring the issue to Congress
If your state has the right to Initiative, look into proposing new laws
Think about your grandchildren. Ultimately, water will be more
important to them than money
“In the end, water is the resource that is going to
be the most valuable. It will be the lack of safe,
drinkable, usable water that will be our undoing,
not gas and oil… Congress should step back and
look at the process of fracking.” – Nancy Weber
(Weber, 2012)
Carr, M. (2012). Natural Gas to Be Most-Used Fuel in U.S. by 2030, IEA Says. Bloombeg.
Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-12/natural-gas-to-become-largest-fuel-in-u-s-by-2030-ieasays.html
Earthworks. (2012) Hydraulic Fracturing 101. Retrieved from
Fracking risks to groundwater analysed. (2012). TCE: The Chemical Engineer, (849), 6-7.
Gruver, M. (2011) EPA: First Evidence Surfaces Linking Fracking, Water Pollution. Retrieved from
Hart, M., Weiss, D. (2011) Making Fracking Safe in the East and West: Environmental Safeguards
on Shale Gas Production Needed as China Begins Development. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from
Hines, D.A. (2012). The “Halliburton Loophole”: Exemption of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids from
Regulation Under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act
Hydrocarbon. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from
Kamarshi, B., Kurtz, J., Soulsby, R. (2012) Fracking: Considerations for Risk Management and
Financing http://insight.milliman.com/article.php?cntid=8107
Montgomery, C., Smith, M. (2010) Hydraulic Fracturing: History of An Enduring Technology.
Myers, T. (2012). Potential Contaminant Pathways from Hydraulically Fractured Shale to
Aquifers. Ground Water, 50(6), 872-882. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6584.2012.00933.x
Natural Gas. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/natural%20gas
NaturalGas.org. (N.D.) Overview of Natural Gas: History.
Retrain-America. (2010). Preparing America for the Oil & Gas Industry: About Retrain America.
Retrieved from http://retrain-america.com/about_retrain.html
Swarthmore Colleg Environmental Studies. (2012). Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale:
Economic Impact. Retrieved from http://www.swarthmore.edu/academics/environmentalstudies-capstone/economic-impact.xml#_ftn1
U.S. Department of Energy. (2012) How Fossil Fuels are Formed.
U.S. Department of Energy. (2011). Shale Gas: Applying Technology to Solve America’s Energy
Challenges. (6)3. Retrieved from http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/oilgas/publications/brochures/Shale_Gas_March_2011.pdf
Weber, N. (2012). Fracking Too Risky. Retrieved from

similar documents