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.
These extreme extraction technologies are utilized by the fossil fuel industry, together with our Government to get something called Peak Oil. Oil fields that have been used to provide fuel for a long period of time are running down and what little is left in these fields is harder and more expensive to extract. This explains the risks involved in and perhaps even caused by this technology’s extreme nature.
There are people who are tolerating these extreme and destructive technologies in a transition period in which we will go from Peak Oil towards a future with renewable energy.
But there are also people who ask how, for Christ’s sake, a highly-needed future with renewable energy will be able to materialize if investments are removed from renewable energy projects and heaped on coal and extreme extraction techniques with all its accidents as our Government is doing right now.
Everybody knows (except perhaps a few clowns in the White House) that global warming worsens by increasing our carbon emissions and, if we go on the disastrous Trump path, we won’t have any decent infrastructure for renewable sources when the very last fossil fuel vestiges have run dry.
Put very simply, fracking is a method of extracting resources such as oil and natural gas from the ground. Various rock formations buried deep under our feet contain valuable materials such as natural gas, but getting these resources out of the ground can be very difficult.
One way to extract substances from rock formations is by using hydraulic fractures – veins and cracks throughout the rock that allow things like natural gas to drain out. Just like your doctor can thread a tiny endoscope into your bloodstream to reach various organs, hydraulic fractures provide access to collections of natural gas and other valuable resources. These hydraulic fractures can occur naturally, but when people talk about fracking, they are referring to induced hydraulic fracturing.
Induced hydraulic fracturing is accomplished by first drilling into the ground and constructing wells to reach the desired rock formation. From there, fracking fluid can be pumped into the well to reach the rock formation. This fluid is pumped at such high pressures that it actually fractures the targeted material – like one of those power washers you use to clean your patio, except a thousand times more powerful.
This pumping creates a system of veins, cracks, and fissures in the rock. Proppants, which can be made up of sand or ceramic particles, are also pumped into the rock formation once it has been fractured as a means of keeping the fissures from collapsing. Read also this post on fracking-related trucks accidents.
Once the rock formation has been fractured and proppants have been placed to keep the fractures open, reservoirs of oil and natural gas can finally be accessed. These resources are pumped back to the surface along with huge amounts of flowback liquid, which is essentially fracking fluid mixed with whatever chemicals it may have encountered during the fracking process. The flowback liquid can be stored on-site in giant reservoirs, pumped down into underground wells, or taken to treatment facilities.