There has been a great deal in the media recently about fracking; much of it misleading, and some hysterical scaremongering. So I thought I would carry out my own research and find out the facts for myself.
Hydraulic fracturing is used to increase oil and gas production. The process involves injecting fluids (water and salts) to create fractures and/or open natural fractures in the rocks. In the simplest case the process uses about 50,000 gallons of water, which is about the volume of an Olympic swimming pool. This is a onetime process that takes 2/3 days. The well will then produce for 20-40 years according to the size of the deposit. The water is then collected, stored and reused for future use. Fracking has made available enough affordable and reliable energy to last the world many decades, even centuries, at the present level of usage.
It has been claimed that fracking will cause the water table to be contaminated by methane. This is extremely unlikely as the shale deposits are more than a mile underground and the water table is only a few hundred feet deep with thousands of feet of impermeable rock in between.
There is a famous video of a flaming water tap. This comes from the town of Dimok in Pennsylvania where the Santer family claim it is caused by fracking, but methane contamination has been known in that area for many years; the first written record being from Thomas Jefferson in 1798, more than 200 years before any fracking. Farmers in the area have known for generations that their well water is contaminated with methane (1), and there has been no increase since fracking. The Santer family also claim that there water has been contaminated by a variety of toxic chemicals. Their water has been tested on several occasions by State and Federal environmental agencies, the results showing no change in water quality since fracking.
Fracking is not new; the first fracked well has been operating safely in Kansas since 1947, and one in Colfax Louisiana for about 40 years without water contamination or earthquakes.
Thanks to horizontal drilling techniques, wells can be accessed in several places from a single location without the need for drilling sites dotted over the landscape. After the initial building process the surrounding land is reclaimed and the site is screened with trees and shrubs resulting in no impact on landscape amenity.
The claim that fracking causes earthquakes is disingenuous. Due to plate tectonics the earth is always moving. According to the local geology and proximity to plate boundary and major fault lines, you either get an small number of large earthquakes, or a large number of small earth movements (magnitude 1 or 2 on the Richter scale) which can only be detected by scientific instruments, not through your feet. There has been no increase in these small earth movements despite continuous monitoring in fracking locations.
The anti-fracking campaign is well funded by Gazprom, the Russian Oil and gas corporation which is afraid of losing its near-monopoly of supply in Eastern and central Europe and the resulting drop in prices This will also reduce the political influence Russia has in its former Soviet states. Since the end of the cold war Russia has twice cut off gas supplies to these countries in order to impose their political will on them.
So in conclusion: no water table contamination, no earthquakes, no landscape impact. Many decades of affordable and reliable energy, and as an added bonus, natural gas represents a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to coal.
Mr M. Lennard, BSc., FLS., Biologist.
Article reproduced by permission of M. Lennard: many thanks.
(1) Methane is essentially insoluble in water, so in what way can it contaminate water supplies? - Ed.
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