One of the major advancements in the field of extraction processes is fracking. We have been using this technique for the extraction of natural gas and oil. But more recently, it has become a widely debatable topic, as to whether this technology is environmentally friendly or not. Critics insist that it can contaminate groundwater, contribute to global warming, and may trigger earthquakes too. Therefore, the question arises whether it is a boon or threat?
What is Fracking?
The process of fracking involves two primary technologies-
- Hydraulic Fracking – Drilling vertically down into the surface of the earth.
- Horizontal Drilling – This is a new addition to the technique.
The fracking technique begins with digging wells into the earth’s surface, either vertically, or at an angle, up to a depth of 1.5 to 3 km. Once the well is encased with cement or steel to avoid leakage of groundwater, a 90-degree turn is made. After reaching the deep layers, the well is further extended horizontally up to 1.5 km.
Fracking fluids, known as slickwater, are pumped into the well at very high pressure after it is fully dug and encased. The extreme pressure creates fractures in the rocks. It is through these fractures that natural gas and oil can flow. The fluid contains mostly water along with some amount of chemicals and additives that serve for engineering purposes. Additives include detergents, salts, acids, alcohols, lubricants, and disinfectants. The chemical additives make up only 0.5 to 2 percent of the slickwater, while the remaining 98 to 99.5 percent consists of plain water.
After the underground rocks are shattered, the natural gases and oil are mixed with the slickwater. The fluid is pumped out back to the surface, and the wastewater is disposed to treatment plants for treatment.
Is fracking safe?
Without any doubt, Hydraulic Fracking is very effective and yields high efficiency, thereby unlocking massive supplies of natural gas and oils worldwide. Unfortunately, it has its own shortcomings. Here are some of its negative effects:
- the groundwater near the site of fracking wells contains a high amount of methane. This, in turn, makes the drinking water unsafe.
- It releases substances like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and n-hexane into the air. Long-term exposure to these can lead to birth defects, neurological problems, blood disorders and cancer.
- The study also found that it may trigger earthquake risks.
Video Courtesy – ” Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell ”