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Hydraulic fracturing also referred to as ‘fracking’ is a method usually used to stimulate flow of fluid from the crustal rocks to the surface. This process is a modern technique involving pumping of fluid that is rich in water and other chemicals into a deeply dug borehole to an extent that the high pressure of the fluid fractures the rocks containing the required substance. The fluid pumped usually contains in it fine particles referred to as prop pant whose purpose is to create the fissures in rocks. After the whole process of fracking the pressure is released out of the well and the fluid that contains natural gas flows out of the borehole onto the surface. The boreholes are in normal circumstances shifted away from the vertical to horizontal alignment to enable a relatively efficient exploration of the shale reservoirs of the gas being targeted. The fluid that is being used for fracking has small proportions of chemical elements such as acids to aid in initiation of fractures, inhibitors and corrosion and to a greater extent protect the lining of the borehole and also serve as agents to change the fluid viscosity to ease flow (Sangaramoorthy 27-37).
Hydraulic fracturing technology dates back to early 1940s and was further researched in1970s by Unites States of America’s department of energy (Feyrer and Mansur 31-34).
It was recognized henceforth as a milestone in the oil and gas mining industries globally. Before then, oil and gas mining industries could extract attract useful resources lying beneath and above the layers of the shale and left behind the hydrocarbon compounds inside the shale and therefore remained untapped for use.
How Fracking works
In hydraulic fracturing, fractures are created by pumping huge volumes of fluid mixed with small particles of sand through a wellbore into the crustal rock. Fracking a well that is as long as 2 kilometers horizontally requires water which may amount to 20 million liters and about 200,000 liters of chemicals including hydrochloric acid used to clean the fractures during the process, sodium chlorides compounds usually to serve in slowing down the melting of polymers, polyacrylamide to aid in minimizing friction and ethyl glycol to reduce deposits of other compounds in the pipes. After drilling and fracturing process, about 80% of fluid used flows out to the surface for a number of days while some others flows for a longer time. This process is referred to as flow back and resultant water flowing with it to the surface is ordinarily known as produced water. They contain in them heavy metals and other compounds known to emit high frequency radiations. These resultant products are temporarily stored in separate pits for further treatment, reuse or disposal (Gregor and Mathias 703-712).
Effects of fracking to Economy
Technological innovations in hydraulic fracturing integrated with advanced directional drilling abilities have transformed oil and gas production and economies of US and other countries using it.
It has created more job opportunities in some states in the United States. More sites imply more jobs. The oil and gas industries increased an estimate of 169,000 jobs between the year 2010 and 2012 with Texas and North Dakota ripping the hugest benefits
Higher growth of economy in the US is partly as a result of fracking that has increased exports. Economists have argued that fracking has increased the economy. Different modules suggested that the US economy increased from between 0.3 to 0.5 percentage growth in the year 2013 alone (Mazur and Allan 207-222).
This process has led to lower energy prices in some occasions. Oil prices are still relatively high because of the rising prices of crude oil that is dependent on global supply chains and factors affecting demands. However, the US gas prices significantly fell over the last 20 years. This saved on public funds (Hine 556). It also would imply that power plants are likely to bend towards use of natural gas for its production of electric power.
The use of coal has fallen reducing air pollution and carbon IV oxide gases that would lead to global warming. This trend has however lead to a close down of the United States’ number of coal power plants by 25% since 2011.
Fracking has boosted the US manufacturing sector. The cheap source of power from natural gas has attracted the manufacturing enterprises to the united states (Throupe 205-232).
America’s availability of relatively low costing sources of natural gas invites manufacturers. Factories being built in Texas and Pennsylvania for instance will convert the natural gas products to ethylene used to make plastic materials (William and Laurence 89-104).
The United States imports less oil products since fracking has availed them cheaply. It’s one of the main reasons for the fall of imbalance of payments and trade deficits over the last two decades. Many multinational corporations argue that the US government should lightly lessen their policies and restrictions on trading of the oil and gas products from US due to its potential influence on global economy.
Impacts of Fracking on the environment
Extremely large amounts of water are needed in the fracking process reducing the quantity available for use by people residing within those ecological environments. The logistical transportation of water from their catchment areas when there is no sufficient water for use within mining cites is likely to cause a severe contamination reducing the water supply. Leakage of chemicals to these sources also lead to contamination of water sources.
According to the research by GAO oil and natural gas poses threats and compromises on quality of the air in a wide variety of ways. These would include the gases that are burnt and released to the air. Methane is the major chemical that is released in the process and about 4% finds its way into the atmosphere posing dangers in the fracking surrounding environments (Donald and Hine 586-598).
. Other activities conducted during the fracking process pose a lot of harm. These may include the trucks and emissions from the engines of machines on sites. All these hazardous components increase smog in the surroundings and thus decrease the quality of air.
Other environmental concerns about fracking is that it increases the unintentional oil spillage. This is associated with harms on the soils and water due to underground destabilization resulting from crustal disturbance.
Fracking also causes mild to severe tremors and earthquakes as a result of their high pressure applied in extraction, resulting in landslides and potential loss of human and animal life, property and environmental degradation.
The advancement in fracking technology is however associated with several benefits. It has increased government revenues and has assisted the respective countries to be more competitive on regional and global markets. It is also said to provide the access to a cleaner forms of energy since the risks involved with natural gas are less when compared to those that are likely to be cause by coal (Somerset 757-758).
Relatively low amounts of solid particles are released to the environment when natural gas burns, minimizing on the pollution to the environment.
Fracking has helped develop clean-capture technologies. It has made the col industries stay relevant and effectively compete. For instance, in the clean coal industries where the hazardous release can be cut down by 70% with high technology filtration and carbon IV oxide capture. Because capture of the natural gas through fracking process is relatively cheap and easily available, it eases the competition and makes it cheap. This is to say that more can be acquired without having to invest a lot in it. Fracking method of natural oil and gas extraction is therefore relatively sustainable source of energy despite its devastating impacts on the environment such as water and air pollution
Hine, Donald W., et al. “Feelings About Fracking: Using the Affect Heuristic to Understand Opposition to Coal Seam Gas Production.” Risk Analysis 39.3 (2019): 586-598.
Jackson, Will, Joanna Gilmore, and Helen Monk. “Policing unacceptable protest in England and Wales: A case study of the policing of anti-fracking protests.” Critical social policy 39.1 (2019): 23-43.
Markl, Gregor, Mathias Burisch, and Udo Neumann. “Natural fracking and the genesis of five-element veins.” Mineralium Deposita 51.6 (2016): 703-712.
Mazur, Allan. “How did the fracking controversy emerge in the period 2010-2012?” Public Understanding of Science 25.2 (2016): 207-222.
Sangaramoorthy, Thurka, et al. “Place-based perceptions of the impacts of fracking along the Marcellus Shale.” Social Science & Medicine 151 (2016): 27-37.
Williams, Laurence, et al. “Framing ‘fracking’: Exploring public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom.” Public Understanding of Science 26.1 (2017): 89-104.