Gas and oil extracted from shale rock underground are known as hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. The process is used by oil companies to collect large amounts of gas and oil, also known as fossil fuels, from the ground. The process has pros and cons but has proven to be a valuable asset helping to sustain natural materials produced by the Earth. Technology advancements have helped make the process easier and efficient. Here are a few points to know about how fracking works and other pertinent information you should know about the process.
The word “fracking” is related to shale drilling. There are specific areas and regions where the drilling occurs, also known as shale regions. Fracking is the process of drilling deep into the Earth to reach areas producing natural materials such as gas and oil. Drilling occurs through rock formations miles under the ground. The drilling helps release trapped pockets of gas collected by the rocks.
Special drilling technology is used to dig through rock formations to expose more shale. Collecting the gas from the ground includes using water, sand, and designated chemicals into the drilled area using significant pressure. The rocks are then fractured, allowing gas to release. There are companies such as Alpine Silica providing different materials used in the drilling process with proper authorizations by regulators to ensure the process is done safely.
To understand fracking from a detailed perspective, it helps to review the basics of the process. In a nutshell, the process starts by digging a well and then, fluid is pumped in at a high pressure to create a fracture in the shale or rock. The splits are forced open with proppants, and the gas is collected and transferred. Here are additional details about fracking you should know.
Multiple layers of the ground are dug through to reach the shale, as deep as 12,000 feet underground. Steel casing is used to protect around the well created. The shale has many small holes and cracks where natural gas is located. The cracks need to be expanded more to collect the gas. Fluid pumped into the well includes sand, water, and several toxic chemicals. The mixture is used to get in between cracks and openings in the shale. The compound is forced into the cracks from the sand and water pressure.
The fluid comes back up to the surface from the added pressure and is collected in a special tank to be removed and treated. As the fluid leaves the cracks, the cracks shrink or retreat because they have a limited amount of pressure to keep them open. Proppants are chemicals used to prop open cracks in the shale. They are available in different strengths, but it must be powerful to crush the rocks. Natural gas is then collected after proppants open up cracks further. Shale then flows into the water. The gas collected in transferred and stored in collection tanks to be sold.
Advantages of the process
Studies suggest fracking may help sustain the world energy supply of gas and oil for years to come. Fracking is effective at collecting mass amounts of natural materials from below the Earth’s surface. The United States has increased the production of domestic oil to maintain low gas prices. The US economy has seen a boost since the country is now in a position to export natural gas and oil. More jobs are available with the process occurring around the clock in some regions.
Fracking is safer for the environment than the previous shale drilling process because fewer carbon emissions are produced. The process allows for collecting gas and oil in trapped areas previous shale gas techniques were unable to accomplish. The method of adding the chemical-based water solution is a controlled processed even though the water flows through the cracks under extreme amounts of pressure. The controlled process ensures favorable results.
The process of fracking is temporary in most cases, meaning when the process is done, it leaves little footprint on the land where the digging occurred. More gas and oil is removed from a well at a time to minimize costs before digging elsewhere. Another benefit to the economy is energy investment opportunities. Fracking occurs in rural areas to keep costs down. It helps create jobs in other industries, including restaurant and hotel, and has increased investing interests of those seeking energy industry stocks to purchase. If you live in an area where fracking occurs, you may have lower property taxes with surrounding cities gaining revenue increases.
Controversies and concerns
Fracking may not require making as many holes in the ground, but it continues to be questioned by environmental experts. Society relies on gas and oil supply, and the fracking process will play a vital role in sustaining the supply of both well into the future. Some environmental specialists argue about using proppants in the ground to open fissures in the rocks. They feel using such chemicals is risky and wonder if something else may be used.
Others wonder about the groundwater possibly being contaminated from the drilling process with chemicals that may cause cancer. Then, there is the debate about political action that should or should not take place regarding the fracking process. Few believe government agencies and energy firms should do more to help conserve renewable energy and fossil fuel sources. Many have questioned whether Earth tremors recorded were the result of fracking. The process also requires a vast amount of water with high costs to transport.
Fracking and the future Understanding the pros and cons of the process depends on how you view the information provided by environment experts and researchers. More research is ongoing to learn how the process affects certain parts of the world. While other countries explore the possibilities of fracking, some have suspended it after suspecting it may have caused a tremor in the region. However, locations around the world with shale regions remain hopeful the process will remain effective. There are setbacks in the process that still need improvement.