The sheer volume of development being done in the Pennsylvania Wilds just for the sake of fracking is absolutely astounding. The hundreds of tanker trucks, all of the security kiosks constantly communicating via radio, the supervisor who threaten observers with guns – in comparison to many of the peaceful, pristine streams that still are found in Pennsylvania, all of this fracking development seems almost surreal.
But I suppose any kind of industrial development will always seem at odds with nature; those two things do not usually mix very well. It isn’t fracking development itself that necessarily bothers me – I’m not opposed to progress, especially when it is concerned with valuable resources that our society needs to function. I’m more bothered by the manner in which the fracking industry is developing at an exponential rate in the Pennsylvania Wilds and across the country.
Marcellus Shale is a kind of sedimentary rock formation found throughout Pennsylvania’s northeast that contains vast amounts of natural gas. A large portion of the state sits atop huge formations of Marcellus Shale, which makes areas such as the Pennsylvania Wilds ripe for natural gas extraction via fracking. The prospect of being paid large sums of money for land and mineral rights, especially in a harsh economy, is all too appealing for many landowners throughout Pennsylvania.
The fracking industry has flourished throughout Pennsylvania in the past couple of years, and Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction shows no signs of stopping. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, over 6000 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania in the past four years alone. Experts project that over 60,000 wells will be drilled by 2030.
Fracking is a relatively new activity in the energy industry, but studies are showing that it may have more impact on the environment than originally thought. Fracking is the process of injecting fluid, sand and other material deep into the earth to help fracture rocks, making natural gas easier to find and collect. However, this process may also be contributing to instances of earthquakes in areas where fracking is taking place.
All around the world, researchers have studied earthquakes corresponding with fracking activities. They have found that fracking in Switzerland, Texas, and Oklahoma caused everything from minor tremors to one of Oklahoma’s strongest earthquakes ever recorded.
Because earthquakes do not happen every time fracking occurs, researchers believe that earthquakes due to fracking only happen when the fluid injected underground reaches a fault and relieves the friction on that fault. Otherwise, earthquakes may not happen at all when fracking occurs.
Many of us have no idea what fracking is or how it works. Most people know it has something to do with resources and energy and that it is a hot-button issue, but most of us have absolutely no knowledge on the subject.
So let’s take a look at what fracking actually is and why any potential impacts of fracking need to be assessed. So here is some explaining of fracking in a nutshell, in the hopes that more of us will be able to understand what’s happening in the world around us a little better.
What is Fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) is an extreme technology for the extraction of oil and gas. Some other technologies and methods are Underground Coal Gasification, Coalbed Methane extraction, and Tar Sands extraction, These methods all have some high-risk common elements to the living spaces of our communities and threaten a few highly needed attempts to save our civilization that’s threatened by global warming.
If you work in the energy industry, you know what kind of tough work you do. It’s not the kind of job where you can just sit idly by but instead requires real dedication, skill, and concentration. That said, you are likely aware of the kind of devastating injuries that can occur in your line of work. Let’s face it, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing can be very dangerous endeavors, especially for people like you, the workers in the trucks, on the front line of the industry.
The rapid proliferation of hydraulic fracturing has created work environments that can be less than safe. Injuries resulting from unsafe work practices abound and are a real and tangible concern for those working in this industry. If you do indeed get injured while on the job, in all likelihood, your injury is the result of someone else’s careless or negligent actions. Why should you suffer because of another party’s mistake?
Mining has always been a messy dangerous business. Even as new techniques are discovered, mining has stayed messy and dangerous. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are the latest techniques, but their modern engineering cannot keep miners safe. Mine owners, often speculators, don’t do their best to safeguard their workers either. The combination of more mines, dangerous equipment, and poor safeguards leads to many injuries due to fracking.
An Increase In Modern Mining Techniques Leads To More Dangers
In the past, trapped natural gas reserves were not economically viable for commercial use. They were in difficult to reach places that conventional mining techniques couldn’t reach. When hydraulic fracturing (fracking) became possible, then many mine owners and speculators jumped into the business. Fracking is very lucrative for the mining operation owner because it pays for itself very quickly when reserves are tapped and sold. Mining is a great job for workers unless they are harmed on the work site.
“Fracking” is the collective and colloquial term for the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction. Its purpose is to extract oil and gas from rock formations deep underground (in deep shale formations) with high-pressure ‘fracking fluids’. These fluids contain significant amounts of water, chemicals, and sand that fracture rock layers to free the trapped oil or gas so it can be pumped out.
Although fracking as a process has been in use for decades, its environmental consequences remain significant. First, fracking is an intensive activity that requires large access roads, acres of clearing sites, drilling rig access, and storage and processing structures. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water are brought into the site and mixed with chemical agents, sand, and emulsifiers.
Although the fracking fluid is 98% water, the oil and gas industries have reported that between 2008 and 2013, 39 chemicals were used in fracking fluids that were known as (most likely) human carcinogens (Safe Water Drinking Act) for being riskful for human health, or known as hazardous pollutants (Clean Air Act). These fluids have to be kept out of normal watersheds in surface containments or be sequestered underground – in either location, these fluids have the potential to “eventually … migrate into and contaminate groundwater sources for waterways and drinking supplies.”