What Is Fracking?

July 20, 2020

We all know gas and oil are fossil fuels, and once they’re gone, they’re gone—so it’s important to find more sources, at least until practical renewable alternatives are the norm. There might be as many as trillions of drillable cubic feet of shale gas in the U.K. alone.  Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing in Carlsbad, NM, is a process that helps recover gas and oil from shale that would normally be too difficult to drill for.

How does hydraulic fracturing work?

Fracking is performed by drilling a well thousands of feet into the earth’s crust, well below the groundwater and freshwater supplies. After the well is drilled, a mixture of water, chemicals and sand is directed at an extremely high pressure into the well. The force breaks up and loosens the shale, which releases gas or oil into the well. The term “fracking” refers to the shale fracturing.

One fracking procedure can drill in multiple directions from a single point, and after the brief procedure, the well will actively produce for years, if not decades. This limits the surface footprint of oil and gas drilling. The entire procedure usually takes about three to five days, at which point the well should continue to produce for years.

Fracking in Carlsbad, NM and elsewhere has driven down the cost of gas in the United States, and has ensured that this resource will be secure for another century. It makes it possible to generate electricity at half the carbon emissions that you’d get from burning coal, and has created a number of jobs. Proponents note that fracking has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25-year lows.

Why is fracking controversial?

However, the process is not without drawbacks. You’ve probably heard of fracking in Carlsbad, NM through the news, thanks to its controversial nature—but why is it such a hot button for environmentalists? There are a few different reasons:

  • Earthquakes: One of the most immediate side effects of fracking is that the procedure has caused earthquakes, even in locations nowhere near fault lines, like Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma. While they’re usually small tremors, a 5.7 fracking quake in Prague, Oklahoma rocked the area and damaged 14 homes.
  • Water usage: Fracking requires massive amounts of water, which has to be transported to the site. This has additional environmental impact.
  • Pollution: There is also the possibility that contamination can occur, both to groundwater as well as allowing carcinogenic chemicals to escape into the air. While this is rare, the potential for disaster is fairly significant.
  • Distracting from renewable energy: Finally, environmentalists point out that pursuing non-renewable energy sources distracts the government from pursuing alternative energy options. This results in our continued reliance on non-renewable resources to power our everyday lives, and will make it difficult for future generations to convert or update our infrastructure.

This relatively safe process has been in use since 1947. Today, over 1.7 million wells have been created by fracking in Carlsbad, NM and beyond, guaranteeing at least a century’s worth of natural energy sources.

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