Since the first successful commercial application of hydrofracking in 1950 in the United States, there have already been about 2.5 million well-stimulation techniques done worldwide. Hydrofracking or hydraulic fracturing is a process of injecting pressurized liquid into the ground to extract energy sources such as tight oil, coal seam gas and oil shale. Perhaps, this is the simplest description of this gas and oil extraction technique.
What Are the Pros of Hydrofracking?
1. This process adds up to the natural gas and oil reserves of the countries doing it.
With hydrofracking, it is easier to have access to natural gas and oil, forms of energy that are essential in sustaining life on earth, that is, source of electricity, petroleum and even drinking water. And with countries like the US with high demand for energy, this is a big help.
2. The cost is much cheaper than other options in extracting natural gas.
Despite the expense of hydrofracking, it is not as expensive as the alternatives being considered in accessing energy resources from beneath the surface of the earth. It has been around for about 70 years and given its daily output of 300,000 barrels.
3. It generates jobs.
The process is not easy and demands man power to get it done. With the building of drilling sites, unemployed people were given jobs. Thousands of people are now getting high paying jobs from being in this industry. More stable jobs are created and allow families to have income for years. Consequently, residents increase their standard of living and more businesses are benefited as well.
4. Countries into hydrofracking lessen oil importation costs.
By having their own natural gas and oil reserves, the need to import from other countries will be lessened, if not totally stopped. Moreover, the reserves that are commercially viable can be important to a country’s economy. With the free flowing of shale gases, the demands will be supplied without having to be dependent on other nations. This is considered to have a positive impact in the economy. In the U.S, from example, hydrofracking form tight oil wells reduced the need to import oil. And with having gas supply, there is a reduction in natural gas price as well.
What Are the Cons of Hydrofracking?
1. There are health hazards related to working in hydrofracking sites.
Even with the promise of high paying jobs and financial stability, working in this industry can be exposed to toxic chemicals or carcinogens that can cause lung cancer. Silica sand, a particulate that can be likened to asbestos, is used in the process. Exposure to this can lead to cancer or if not, to a condition known as silicosis, wherein structures of lung tissues are damaged which can lead to lung swelling. Despite using masks, silica dusks can still enter the lungs.
2. Using the process for dried up wells can contaminate drinking water.
Fear of hydraulic fracturing contaminating drinking water has been reported. In Pennsylvania, evidence that there were traces of chemical compounds used in hydrofracking found in three homes. Although a report of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that there is no widespread of water contamination in the water resources of the country, warns have been raised regarding some factors that can have adverse effects on water supply. These can be from spills or poor water treatment, among other causes.
3. It has adverse effects on the environment.
Environmentalists talk about the potential hazards hydraulic fracturing can bring. One is its effect on the environment. With the burning of oil and coil, there will be an increase of carbon emissions in the atmosphere which can worsen global warming. Next is the risk of earthquakes.
4. It is an expensive process.
Water is the most important ingredient in fracking wherein millions of gallons of water are needed for a single activity. This is on top of the supplies and the cost of having to clean up contaminated water, which can be quite expensive.
How is This Done?
With drilling, the rock layer, thousands of feet beneath the surface, is fractured, thus making the natural resources accessible to people and are used as reserves. With the use of hydraulic pressure, fracturing liquid, which is composed of sand, water and about 600 kinds of chemicals, is injected into a wellbore at a rate that is enough to increase pressure below and eventually cause the rock to crack or fracture.
When this occurs, fracture fluid will seep through the rock, thus extending the crack further. Sand and other particulates referred to as proppant are used to prevent the closure of the fractured surface which might happen after the pressure and injection of fluid stops. Once the end of the pipeline is reached and the shale rock cracks, gravity will then allow natural gases to flow into the well. There are about 400 tankers needed to transport supplies and water to and from the drilling site while one to eight million gallons of water will be consumed for a single “fracking”. In the U.S, around 300,000 barrels of natural gas are extracted on a daily basis, a vital output which can be used in different applications.
Despite its popularity and proliferation over the years, its effects have also been in the middle of controversies. Proponents of hydrofracking see its benefits from an economic perspective while opponents talk about the possibility of drinking water contamination and other hazards. And with many countries joining the bandwagon of fracking, contentions are unending on the advantages and disadvantages of this method.
Hydrofracking has its upside and downside. It is an effective way to have natural gases and oil, which is economically good for a country. However, the fact still remains. Carcinogens are present and improper waste water disposal and exposure can be detrimental to health. The environment can also suffer if shortcuts are taken. Government leaders whose countries practice hydrofracking should monitor and regulate this activity to ensure the environment and the people are not put in line.