What is ‘Fracking’

I read a BBC.com article on ‘fracking’ in the US. More specifically, this article discusses a new $20 billion project to open an export terminal in Louisiana where extracted natural gas will be shipped abroad. To give a brief overview, when the terminal was first started it was intended as an import terminal for natural gas. However, with recent discoveries of plentiful reserves, the US is moving towards exporting the energy source to countries such as the UK. A factor in this recent boom is the new innovations in the processes of discovering and exploiting natural gas reserves.

Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, occurs when pressurized water is forced into the shale. Granules of sand in the water help make the fissures in the shale larger, allowing the natural gas to flow out. The 90 degree turn allows for a wider field of exploitation.

The most common and effective method used today is called fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, “refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted” (Investopedia). This process is combined with making a 90o angle in the shaft, thereby allowing the well to cover a larger area. The reason this needs to be done is because “The pore spaces in shale are so tiny that the gas has difficulty moving through the shale and into the well” (Geology.com). For many years, extracting reserves from shale has proven highly difficult for energy companies seeking oil and natural gas. Fracking has made the process easier and more efficient.

Although hydraulic fracturing has made the exploitation of natural gas reserves trapped in shale much easier, there are some downsides. Some of these include noise pollution and other disruptive consequences of such processes to populated areas. More serious cons of fracking include environmental hazards. While digging into the ground and using hydraulic fracturing, the rock(s) around the shale may also crack leading to the fracking liquids and natural gas to seep into the above environment. The greatest threat in this situation lies in the possible pollution of surface water, even drinking water. According to the BBC article, companies claim that they use a type of double protection in their wells, whereby the well is a steel pipe encased in cement, thereby greatly minimizing the threat of contamination. Of course, there is the possibility that even this protection could form cracks and allow seepage into sources of water. Emissions and dumping of waste water from these projects pose their own risk to the environment, as well. The disruption of ecosystems, both human and wild, as well as the environmental hazards are main reasons why fracking and exploitation of shale gases is controversial and meeting a good deal of opposition.

Despite the possible hazards, fracking could be greatly beneficial for the US. Energy self-reliance will allow the US to become a major exporter of natural gas exploited by fracking. Due to the efficiency of fracking and other improvements in technology, more sources are being discovered that are accessible. In these difficult economic times, fracking and exploitation of shale gases could play a great role in generating positive cash flows into the USA, aiding economic recovery by creating jobs and reducing deficits. If handled properly, fracking can also be done in an environmentally friendly way, thereby creating a win-win situation for the US.

Bibliography

Shukman, David. “US to Begin Exporting ‘fracked’ Gas.” BBC News. BBC, 16 July 2013. Web. 17 July 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23317370

“Fracking.” Definition. ValueClick, Inc, n.d. Web. 17 July 2013. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fracking.asp

“Shale.” : Sedimentary Rock. Geology.com, n.d. Web. 17 July 2013. http://geology.com/rocks/shale.shtml

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