Fracking is an oil and natural gas extraction process that has been in use for commercial purposes for several decades and has emerged as an effective and viable method to recover natural hydrocarbons from the earth bed. The pros and cons of fracking have been a matter of intense debate in recent years because the process involves the use of chemical mixtures, which could pose a potential threat to the environment as well as health hazards for the people.
On the positive side, fracking helps to tap into the deep rock beds in a cost-efficient manner so this is something that has to be considered when it comes to the pros and cons of fracking. Regions with shale oil deposits can access natural oil and gas deposits with this technique, which eventually helps to boost the local economy. The fracking technique has opened up new doors to balance out and replace the use of coal and fossil fuels with natural hydrocarbons.
What Is Fracking?
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling process to extract natural oil and gas from shale rock. By drilling the rock bed with high-pressure water and chemical mixture, the extracted oil and gas is released from the rock bed fissures and is pumped out through a shaft.
How Does the Fracking Process Work?
Typically, the fracking process involves fracturing the shale rock bed, found at a depth of several hundred cubic meters from the ground.
A well or shaft is vertically drilled to get to the underground rock bed, followed by a drilling a horizontal shaft, right into the core of the shale bed, which contains the natural hydrocarbons (oil and gas).
A high-pressure fracking fluid of water, sand and chemicals is injected through the shaft. This causes fissures on the shale bed to release the stored oil and gas. The pros and cons of fracking need to be carefully considered, depending on the extraction site and the fracking fluid composition.
What Is Fracking Fluid?
Fracking fluid is a mixture made of several million gallons of water, chemicals, and sand particles that help to loosen the rock bed, and increases the volume of extraction of natural oil and gas. The fracking fluid acts as a gelling agent to grease the well, reduce corrosion, and to clear the clogs, which is an important point to remember when considering the pros and cons of fracking. In addition, the fluid mixture is adequately composed of chemicals, which act as a disinfectant to kill bacterial growth and to liquefy minerals. The fluid mixture may vary in composition from well to well, depending on the depth and the layer of rock bed.
The Extraction Process
With an intense degree of pressure, the fracking fluid is pumped into the well in order to penetrate deep into the layers of soil containing the natural hydrocarbons. The pros and cons of fracking should be studied during the extraction process in order to minimize or eliminate the risk of water contamination and to reduce the leak of methane gases into the atmosphere.
As the fluid hits the rock bed containing the layer of gases, it creates tiny fissures, which release the hydrocarbons. These tiny fissures are held in place by the sand particles in the fracking fluid, which prevents them from being closed. The fracking fluid generates pressure around the shale bed, which pushes the natural gas upwards and out, through the head of the well. Once the gas resource is drained, the fracking fluid remains in the drilled well and is sealed.
Is There a Need for Fracking?
To address this question, it is vital to evaluate the pros and cons for fracking, and particularly the environmental impact of this process. Fracking involves large consumption of water, use of toxic chemical mixtures, and even contributes to the risk of earthquakes. There should be a healthy balance while using hydraulic fracturing, with appropriate safety measures in place and adequate steps taken to protect the environment, the people and the surroundings.
The Main Pros and Cons of Fracking
The Advantages of fracking technology include:
Recover Natural Hydrocarbon Deposits from New Reserves
With fracking, new reserves containing natural deposits of oil and gas have been detected, which has made fracking a booming practice all over again.
These reserves are lodged deep in the rock bed and ensure the availability of natural hydrocarbons, which can be recovered by hydraulic fracturing. In many parts of U.S, fracking is a popular technique, and 60% of the natural hydrocarbon deposits are from the new reserves, recovered by the extraction process using fracking fluid.
Drop in Prices for Oil and Natural Gas
A major advantage of fracking is the drop in prices for oil and gas, as new reserves are identified, leading to a steady increase in supply and stock of deposits. This abundance of natural hydrocarbons has relatively improved the economy and has brought a drop in prices across the global market.
Outdoor Air Gets Cleaner
By replacing fossil fuels like coal with natural gas, there is less emission of pollutants in the atmosphere, thus improving the quality of outdoor air.
In recent times, various strategies have been adopted to reduce carbon emission and to use natural gas. It is as a much cheaper alternative and cleaner energy resource than coal and fossil fuels to generate electricity. Burning natural gas produces less CO2, thus providing cleaner air with fewer pollutants.
Campaigns the Use of Natural Gas in Place of Fossil Fuels and Coal
With fracking technique, it is now possible to recover natural gas from shale bed deposits with reduced carbon emissions and other pollutants. The use of natural gas supports a cleaner environment with improved air quality.
Boosts the Economy
Countries rich with shale gas deposits can stabilize and improve their economic state by reducing the use of imported coal and oil. Fracking technique helps in extracting large quantities of shale gas deposits and oil, thus reducing dependency on other countries and minimizing the expenditure on imported goods.
By investing in fracking, the rich deposits of shale gas can be harvested to maximize the use of natural gas for cheaper electricity, and to minimize carbon emissions and lower the pollutants in the air.
Creates Job Opportunities
With hydraulic fracturing in practice again, there has been a steady rise in job opportunities in the extraction field and allied sectors. It is a drilling process, which involves long hours of work, and extensive use of heavy machinery, workforce, skilled technicians, and experts in the field. Amidst all scenarios, despite the controversial debate regarding the pros and cons of fracking, it continues to be in demand and offers a promising future in terms of creating employment opportunities for people and providing energy for industries at competitive prices.
The Cons of Fracking
Hydraulic fracturing has definitely opened new doors of opportunity, enabling the world to tap into shale resources, but it also poses significant limitations in the long run. With the fracking technique, the extraction process becomes quite toxic in nature and may harm the environment and cause health hazards to people, particularly those who are living closer to the extraction grounds.
Problems of Contamination in Water Resources
Fracking contaminates the freshwater resources found underground in the soil bed. It is considered to be one of the major cons of hydraulic fracturing.
In the fracking extraction technique, the chemical compounds used to facilitate the process are predominantly toxic and hazardous in nature. They may emit toxic substances, which can penetrate deep into the layers of the soil and contaminate the water deposits.
Some of the chemicals used in the fracking fluid, like formic acid and benzoyl, are so deadly in nature. This means that the contaminated water cannot be treated or used for any purpose. This has led to an increase in contaminated water source in many extraction sites and has adversely affected the livelihood of people living nearby.
Unhealthy Release of Greenhouse Gases
The release of toxic greenhouses gases due to hydraulic fracturing poses a considerable threat to people and the environment. Many of the released greenhouse gases such as methane are toxic in nature and are deadlier than carbon emissions. It is roughly estimated that 3% of methane leaks into the atmosphere in the process of fracking.
In addition, the amount of carbon emissions produced during the burning of natural gas is significantly lesser in comparison to the release of greenhouse gases like methane during the extraction process. Greenhouse gases such as methane are responsible for global warming and adverse climatic changes, hence fracking does pose a threat to the surrounding environment.
Increases the Possibilities of Quakes
With hydraulic fracturing, the odds of creating quakes are high, as the extraction process requires drilling the underground layers of soil bed to reach the shale gas deposits. The fracking fluid directed towards the shale deposits with high pressure is pumped back into the well and is sealed, which can cause quakes in the extraction sites and affect the people living nearby
Waste of Water
The amount of water used in a fracking fluid mixture is generally several million liters and this is a huge waste of water considering the cons of fracking. The use of water in fracking is equivalent to the water consumption of 65,000 people on an average. As the water is heavily infused with toxic chemicals, the contaminated water cannot be treated or used in any manner for domestic or commercial purposes.
Increase of Noise
Hydraulic fracturing does generate huge decibels of noise, which can be summed up as noise pollution to people living near the extraction sites. As the fracking process involves long hours of drilling and extracting, the noise generated is likely to affect the people and can disturb their sleeping hours.
Campaigns the Cause of Natural Gas in Place of Renewable Resources
With people relying on natural gas instead of fossil fuels and coal, fracking has created a boom where renewable energy resources have been sidelined, and their importance been drastically reduced in recent times. The use of solar plants and windmills are fewer in number when compared to the use of natural gases extracted by fracking technique.
How to Make Fracking Safer and Greener?
By adopting safer and improved strategies to promote a clean, safe, and green environment, the fracking technique can continue to reduce the nation’s energy supply burden and strengthen the economy. The pros and cons of fracking can be balanced to a significant extent by following greener measures to ensure the safety of people and the environment as a whole.
The process can be made greener and safer by reducing the water consumption and adopting methods that use fluid gel as an agent. The fracking fluid uses several gallons of water, which can neither be recycled nor reused. Therefore, measures to reduce the use of water should be considered. The use of gelling agents in the place of water can produce the same results and gelling fluid can hold sand for an easier extraction process. By replacing water with gelling fluid, there would be less contamination of underground water resources.
By using recycled water or gray water instead of freshwater for fracking technique, the use of large consumption of water can be significantly reduced. The pros and cons of fracking are largely focused on the use of water and chemicals. Therefore, using recycled water could promote safer and greener fracking for years to come.
The use of diesel for powering the heavy machinery used in fracking needs to be reduced, as it increases the production of carbon emissions and other harmful pollutants. In addition, diesel fumes can inflate global warming and can lower the quality of outdoor air. Greener alternatives would be to use natural gas as fuel to run heavy drilling equipment’s for fracking and incorporate the use of solar panels to generate power for the extraction process. By adopting such measures, the cost of fuel could be drastically cut, leading to a cheaper and cleaner fracking technique.
Hydraulic fracturing uses several gallons of water, which can be treated by adopting certain measures to ensure the re-usability of water. The volume of wastewater is significantly larger than the extracted oil by fracking technique. In addition, the fracking extraction process taps the fresh underground water resources and draws them out of the well. This water can be stored and treated on-site for various purposes to be used as gray water. Strategies to employ for improved water treatment could salvage the heavy loss of water by eliminating bacterial growth, chemicals, minerals and other dust particles.
In the fracking extraction technique, along with natural gases a certain amount of greenhouse gases like methane leak into the atmosphere. Methane gas is potently hazardous to health and environmental surroundings, lowering the quality of outdoor air. It is more harmful than CO2 and safe measures have to be considered to eliminate the leak of methane during the extraction process. To arrest the leak of methane gas, using equipment that identifies the gas emission and pressure vents to lower the volume of leakage during the extraction would prove to be highly beneficial. Another alternative would be to use solar-powered pumps, which would minimize the escape of greenhouse gases.
How to Improve the Cost-Benefit Ratio of Fracking?
The key is to identify specific aspects of fracking that require improvisation. The use of green technologies like solar-generated energy, plugging greenhouse gases with pneumatic gas vents, replacing natural gas with diesel for fracking tools and equipment, and the use of recycled water to lower the cost of extraction process are some ways this can be done.
The use of gas-guzzling heavy machinery involved in fracking methods can be cut down by substituting them with low carbon emission drilling tools, which can cut fuel costs and reduce the environmental impact during the extraction process. Better and improved chemical treatments, which are less toxic in nature, would make fracking a cleaner and safer practice in the future while cutting back costs on fuel, chemicals, and water.
By taking measures to advance water-free fracking, it is possible to bring down the costs of water treatment substantially compared to conventional fracking techniques. The use of gel fluid as an agent can reduce water consumption, promote greener fracking, and boost the cost-benefit quotient. The need for green fracking practices should be endorsed, which would highly benefit the local economies and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels such as coal.
By adopting qualitative greener measures, fracking can open up more job opportunities in the energy sector and generate revenue to strengthen and balance the economy without damaging the environment.
In hydraulic fracturing, the pros and cons of fracking continue to be a matter of ongoing scientific research. But the method has gained immense popularity in countries rich with shale gas deposits. By boosting the local economy and lowering the prices of oil and gas, more job opportunities have opened up in various sectors thanks to fracking.
However, you also have to remember that the environmental impacts of fracking can be harsh and unyielding, including health hazards, waste of water, and release of greenhouse gases, which can pose a considerable threat to humanity over a period of time. The movement to practice greener fracking is gaining strength worldwide, and more innovative measures are being adopted to make fracking a clean, safe and environment-friendly drilling process.