What is Oil Fracking?
Oil Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the breaking of shale rocks to release trapped natural gas. This is process done by invasive drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high enough pressure to break open rocks. The fluid used to break open these tough rocks is a combination of water, sand, nitrogen gas, and chemicals such as hydrochloric acid. Although approximately 300,000 barrels of oil are produced daily using the fracking method, it is not environmentally-friendly in any way. There are more than 500,000 natural gas wells worldwide that are being subjected to fracking daily. Increased demand for natural gas has caused us to come up with new, more harmful ways of getting natural gas quickly and to find ways to help keep prices at the pump low enough. Large trucks passing their home daily and noisy, constant drilling sounds have become the normal surrounding for some Americans.
Fracking releases methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane concentrations are known to be higher near oil wells where fracking takes place. In addition to releasing methane into the air, billions of gallons of toxic chemicals are being pumped into the ground in order to break open these rocks. Fissures form as the result of heavy pressure, leaking natural gas, chemicals, and methane into the surrounding earth.
The ground is being punctured with deep wells in the hopes of obtaining more natural gas. This drilling makes the earth more porous, and seismic activity is often increased near previously drilled sites. Hydraulic fracking is banned in some countries, and banned in two states- Vermont and New York.
The reason Vermont and New York have banned hydraulic fracturing is health risk. Contaminated drinking water near these oil wells has happened on several occasions. In extreme cases, drinking water was turned flammable due to the methane contaminants in the water. There are over 1,000 documented water contamination cases linked to oil fracking. The companies responsible for fracking fluid refuse to release a complete list of all chemicals involved, stating that they are “trade secrets”. More than 15 million Americans live within one mile of an oil fracking site. Long term health complications resulting from fracking include birth defects, respiratory system damage, and neurological damage.
Natural gas is neither a clean nor a renewable energy source. In addition to detrimental environmental changes and proven health risk, oil fracking is expensive because of the transport of injector fluid, energy used to break open the rock, and the transport of the unrefined natural gas collected. Vertical fracking wells are drilled 1,000-10,000 feet below the earth’s surface, but typically only cover a width area of 50-300 feet. This process is expensive, and the payoff is questionable. 1 to 8 million gallons of water are needed to produce oil at a site. It is estimated that 360 billion gallons of chemicals are needed to run our current gas wells.
The risk of polluting our land and destroying our health is greater than the benefit of additional natural gas extracted by fracking. The damage caused by fracking cannot magically be undone. Oil fracking is a process that should be ended and traded for more renewable energy sources with less environmental toxicity. For ways you can help stop oil pollution, get involved here.