What is “Fracking?”
Fracking is the more common term used for the process of hydraulic fracturing, the process of drilling down and creating tiny explosions to shatter and crack hard shale rock in order to release the natural gas inside. It is also referred to as hydro-fracking. Industry professionals often refer to the process as a “frac job” or a “frac unit.”
How does the process work?
Wells are vertically drilled to the desired depth, then turned to 90 degrees and drilling is continued horizontally for several thousand feet into the shale where the trapped natural gas is located.
Water, sand and various chemicals are pumped into the well at high pressure to create fissures in the shale through which the trapped natural gases can escape.
The trapped natural gas then escapes through the fissures and is drawn back up through the well towards the surface, where it is then processed, refined and shipped off to be marketed.
Wastewater (also known as “produced water” or “flowback water”) returns to the surface once the fracking process has been completed.
How is the Fracking Process different that traditional gas extraction?
Fracking wells are generally thousands of feet deeper than traditional gas wells.
The local freshwater per well required is between two to five million gallons – which can be up to 100 times more than traditional extraction methods.
Fracking requires “fracking fluid,” a mix of water, sand and chemicals.
Is fracking used only in oil & gas production?
No, although its main industrial use is for oil & gas production in wells, the fracking process is also used for:
- Stimulating groundwater wells
- Preconditioning rocks for caving
- Inducing rock to cave in mining
- Enhancing waste remediation processes
- Disposal of waste by injection into deep rock formations
- Measuring the stress in the earth
What are some of the chemicals used in fracking?
Although currently exempt from disclosing the chemicals in fracking, new legislation may soon change that. Energy companies have come under fire in recent years for the types of chemicals used in the fracking process and the potential impact on public health. States that have either passed a bill or are current legislative talks are Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado and Ohio. The US Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is also drafting rules requiring drillers to disclose hydraulic fracturing chemicals used on state lands.