Hydraulic Fracturing and its Safety Within Our Environment

Topics: Petroleum, Natural gas, Oil well Pages: 6 (1372 words) Published: April 23, 2014


Hydraulic Fracturing and its Safety Within Our Environment

Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking as it is more commonly known as, is a process in which oil and natural gas are extracted from deep within the earth's crust, most commonly in places where conventional means of oil rigging and drilling are ineffective or otherwise difficult. What makes fracking unique from traditional drilling is the process in which it is carried out. Fracking involves drilling straight down into the crust, and whenever the drill has reached the desired depth, horizontal drilling is implemented. From there, treated water often mixed with various chemicals and sand is pumped at high pressures down into the ground, which in turn causes micro fissures that release the natural gas or oil to be collected. The ability to be able to access the desired substance in this way is what makes fracking so effective. Although an effective method of collecting natural gas and oil, there has been some controversy over how environmentally friendly and safe these techniques are. Environmentalists argue that fracking contributes to water contamination, habitat destruction, and can also potentially be dangerous to people living around fracking sites. Despite the controversial claims from those concerned about our environment, fracking is not a harmful way of obtaining the natural resources that we require. Fracking, in fact provides a safer and more effective method to procure these resources than the traditional method of oil drilling.

During the process of fracking, water mixed with sand and a multitude of chemicals is piped down the well in order to help release the natural gases found in the existing shale below the surface. Some of the chemicals that are used in the water include hydrochloric acid, gluteraldehyde, magnesium peroxide, magnesium oxide, formic acid, and many more (Fracfocus). Each of the chemicals used in this mixture have a specific purpose that aids or makes the job of fracking possible. For example, the hydrochloric acid aids in breaking down the shale and mineral deposits which makes accessing the natural gas easier. Some, like the gluteraldehyde, are agents that actively eliminate the growth of bacteria and other organisms below the surface(Fracfocus). The sand, as unimportant as it may seem in comparison to the chemicals, still plays a vital role in the fracking process. The sand is mixed into the water in order to keep the cracks and fissures in the shale open for the gas to properly flow out of. The issue that concerns most people about fracking is how potentially harmful the chemicals could be, if not properly handled. Although correct in the sense that the chemicals involved could be harmful under the circumstances of improper disposal or treatment, there are several options for treating, storing, or disposing of the water that is used in the process, which in most cases is the use of a special type of well intended to store the waste water.

In many regions of America, the most commonly found way to dispose of the waste water is a class II injection well which will store the water indefinitely (Environmental Protection Agency). The way the wells are set up allows for a safe method of disposal for the waste water. Wells are also classified and are used for different purposes, to an extent. The most common type of class II well is called an enhanced recovery well. This type accounts for around eighty percent of class II wells. In this type of well, the existing waste water is further processed in order to remove any excess product that can be harvested, increasing the efficiency of the overall procedure (Environmental Protection Agency). The next most common type of class II well is known as a disposal well. A disposal well functions much like the enhanced recovery wells, but they do not allow for excess oil and natural gas to be harvested from the waste water that was used. Instead, most of this water is already depleted...
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