Most of you have probably heard the term “fracking” before. Especially in reference to the current Marcellus Shale drilling that is taking place – the word is being used more and more. Exactly what is fracking and what is its purpose?
“Fracking” is the fracturing of rocks by pressured fluid. A wellbore is drilled into the reservoir rock formation in order to release petroleum, natural gas, or coal seam gas. Sounds simple, right? Well, not really….there is a lot involved in fracking.
The energy from the injection of a highly pressured fluid creates new channels in the rock, which inevitably increases extraction rate (see picture). The fluid injection into the rock is normally a substance of water, proppants, and chemical additives. Based on the type of grain or strength needed, the type of fluid varies.
Some environmental concerns have risen with the latest abundance of fracking including risks to air quality, contamination of water, and the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface. However, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Administrator Lisa Jackson testified in a Senate Hearing Committee stating “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Despite all of the current concerns, President Obama voiced his support for the practice during his January 2012 State of the Union address.