One of the largest oil booms the United States has ever seen is the result of a new kind of drilling technology called fracking and horizontal drilling. These advanced methods have stirred up more than just natural resources lying underground. They have also stirred plenty of controversy, with some environmental experts decrying the techniques as being harmful. Because of such concerns, many companies have taken the initiative to make fracking cleaner and lessen its potentially harmful effects on the environment.
What is Fracking and How Does it Work?
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is done by injecting large amounts of water, sand, and other chemicals into the ground using high amounts of pressure as a way to break through the hard bedrock formation. Fractures are created, making it possible to retrieve the oil and natural gas lying underneath. One of the methods used to drill the oil out from underneath the ground is called horizontal drilling. Drillers no longer have to drill vertically; instead, they can drill horizontally along the same rock formation in many different spots. Because of this, much more oil can be extracted at once.
- What is Fracking?
- Fracking: Fiction vs. Reality
- How Does Hydraulic Fracturing Work?
- Why is Shale Gas Important? (PDF)
- An Overview of Hydraulic Fracturing
- Horizontal-Directional Oil and Gas Well Drilling
- Introduction to Natural Gas Fracking
What Are Some Effects of Fracking?
Some oil and gas experts believe the extraordinary amounts of oil produced by fracking will help make the United States less dependent on foreign oil. By using fracking and other advanced methods, the United States has been able to increase oil production by billions of barrels. Fracking has helped the U.S. push oil production to a 25-year high. This increase in activity may have forever changed the landscape in many states. For example, once a primarily agricultural state, North Dakota now has a horizon dotted with thousands of drilling rigs thanks to increased activity in the Bakken Shale Formation. Besides the Bakken, there are other shale formations throughout the country that are being explored and drilled for oil.
- NASA Image of Gas Drilling in North Dakota
- Fracking Boom Pushing U.S. Oil Output to 25-Year High
- Fracking Boosts U.S. Oil to 10 Percent of Global Supply
- Oil Boom: See a Modern-Day Gold Rush in Motion
- Reducing Oil Dependence Costs
- USGS Oil and Gas Assessment for the Bakken and Three Forks Formations
- The Social Costs of Fracking
What Are Some Potential Dangers of Fracking?
Some are not convinced that the increased oil production due to fracking is a good thing. Many environmentalists are concerned about the negative effects on the land, water, and air that fracking can potentially cause. Some worry that the chemicals being injected into the ground are contaminating the earth and will cause sickness and disease to both human and plant life. There is a lot of water that must be used in fracking, and many feel the amount of wastewater created will cause a whole host of problems if not managed efficiently.
- How Mining, Fracking, and Drilling Have Changed the Public Lands: From Carbon Sinks to Carbon Polluters
- EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources
- Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking
- Worker Exposure to Crystalline Silica During Hydraulic Fracturing
- Risky Gas Drilling Threatens Health, Water Supplies
What is Being Done to Keep Fracking Clean?
While many are realizing the potential dangers of fracking, companies are doing their part to prevent mishaps and accidents that make fracking dangerous. Oil and energy companies who own drilling operations are doing their part to keep fracking as clean as possible. Some newly developed technologies, such as water-free fracking, are promising in making fracking greener and cleaner. Other methods having great potential include the use of recycled water instead of fresh water and treating the wastewater that is produced. As cleaner fracking methods continue to develop and be implemented, natural gas and oil have the potential to be a greener form of energy with fewer negative consequences.
- Cleaner Fracking: Unconventional Oil and Gas Drilling Brings a Flood of Business for Water Treatment Firms (PDF)
- Clean Water Action: Oil and Gas Extraction and Hydraulic Fracturing
- The Future of Fracking: New Rules Target Air Emissions for Cleaner Natural Gas Production (PDF)
- Scientist Wins Award for Innovative Water-Filtering Technology
- One Way to Solve Fracking’s Dirty Problem
- Independents Beating New Air Emission Standards
- Green Fracking? Five Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy