Monday, October 26, 2015
By Anton Antonio
October 27, 2015
“Fracking” is really not a misspelled obscene word that most of us are familiar with. No need to call the attention of MTRCB on this one. The term “fracking” is shorthand or slang for hydraulic fracturing and refers to how deeply embedded ground rock is fractured apart by the high pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals. Other terms associated with fracking are “frac job” (the actual work being done) and “frac unit” (the people doing “frac jobs”).
Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is the process of drilling down into the earth using a high-pressure water mixture directed at the rocks to release the gas inside them. It is a well-stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by pressurized liquid. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. The process involves the high-pressure injection of fracking fluid, composed of water, sand and other proppants suspended with the aid of thickening agents, into the wellbore to create cracks in the deep-rock formations through which natural gas, petroleum and brine will flow more freely. When hydraulic pressure is removed from the well, small grains of hydraulic fracturing proppants (either sand or aluminium oxide) hold the fractures open.
Hydraulic fracturing began as an experiment in 1947 and the first commercially successful application followed in 1950. As of 2012, 2.5 million “frac jobs” had been performed worldwide on oil and gas wells, over a million of those in the United States.
Hydraulic fracturing is highly controversial in many countries since, according to environmental groups opposed to fracking, the potential environmental impacts out-weigh the economic benefits, which include risks of ground and surface water contamination, air and noise pollution, and potentially triggering earthquakes, not to mention the consequential hazards to public health and the environment in general.
At present, there are three major concerns on fracking as a means to produce fossil fuel, these are: (1)The huge amount of fresh water requirement which will impact on agricultural productivity; (2) The possible carcinogenic contamination of groundwater around the fracking site which may lead to wider health issues for those living in the periphery of fracking sites; and, (3) The small tremors or earthquakes of 1.5 to 2.2 magnitude that the production system and technology produces which has destructive effects on aquifers. Fracking industry proponents, however, suggest that environmental and pollution problems are the result of bad practices rather than an inherently risky production technique. Pro-environment advocates and activists, on the other hand, say that, with the advent of global warming and climate change, the fracking industry will have to look for green and alternative power sources which are renewable. The use of materials such as lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde makes a lot of people frown and question the propriety of the use of these chemicals and materials which may cause a lot of health problems.
The real issue is the relative economy by which 300,000 barrels of natural gas produced daily in the largest fracking operation in the U.S. alone as opposed to the displacement of the entire industry caused by a sudden shift to renewable energy. One question that should be answered by the fracking industry is the sustainability of the practice of hydraulic fracking. Climate change is real and the fracking industry will have to also sacrifice for us to be able to avert and mitigate the ill effects of global warming. Change does not necessarily have to be sudden; gradual will be acceptable so long as change is programmed. All fossil fuel production technologies will have to really be reviewed (for our sake and the future generations)… including the practice of fracking.
Thoughts to promote positive action…
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BBC.com, (2015). “Fracking”. Retrieved on October 27, 2015 from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14432401