Fracking: Is It Really Worth The Price? Term Papers Example
1. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process that has been used for over fifty years where shale or other tight-forming rock formations are penetrated by drilling a mile or more beneath the surface, and then eventually turns to continue for several thousand additional feet horizontally in order to create one access point from the surface, but contain numerous wells. The main well is then cased and cemented to serve as the primary access point. Once this process is completed, small holes is created in the horizontal pipe by forcing a mixture that is comprised of 90 percent water, 9.5 percent sand, and 0.5 percent additives at high pressure. This is done to release the natural gas that is contained within the rock formations. This practice is performed to establish new wells as well as stimulating older wells to encourage new production (what-is-fracking.com).
2. Fracking is a controversial issue as many pursue options to combat increasing energy costs. Several countries, including Scotland and Germany, have enacted bans or moratoriums on this practice. This practice are also being banned or subjected to moratoriums in many municipalities, regions and states throughout the United States (keeptapwatersafe). According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), there were an estimated 510,000 natural gas wells throughout the United States with the majority of these utilizing fracking as the primary drilling method (Lallanilla, 2015) with an additional 115 or more in the Gulf of Mexico as closed wells are being revisited to determine if this practice can revitalize these once unusable sources (Light, 2015).
As of 19 June 2014, there was no active crude oil wells in the state of Oregon and one natural gas field, which is the Mist located in the northwestern part of the state (U.S. Energy Information Administration).
3. The fracking process involves the use of a bunch chemicals, including, but not limited to, hydrochloric acid, glutaraldhyde, quatemary ammonium chloride, tetraks hydroxymethyl-phosphonium sulfate, ammonium persulfate, sodium chloride, magnesium peroxide, magnesium oxide, calcium chloride, choline chloride, tetramethyl ammonium chloride, sodium chloride, isopropanol, methanol, formic acid, acetaldehyde, petroleum distillate, hydrotreated light petroleum distillate, potassium metoborate, triethanolamine zirconate, sodium tetraborate, boric acid, zirconium complex, borate salts, ethylene glycol, methanol, guar gum, polysaccharide blend, citric acid, acetic acid, thioglycolic acid, sodium erythorbate, lauryl sulfate, isopropanol, ethylene glycol, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, acetic acid, sodium carbonate, potassium carbonate, copolymer of acrylamide and sodium acrylate, sodium polycarboxylate, phosphonic acid salt, ethanol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, and 2-butoxyethanol. Several of these chemicals have multiple purposes, such as serving as a stabilizer, biocide, or surfectant, and may be listed multiple times as each instance presents a different use. Many of the chemicals used in this process are known by several names, further expanding the list of chemicals used as each name may be listed independently (fracfocus.org).
The chemicals used may also vary by location. Haliburton provides the listing of chemicals arranged by region and individual drilling site. The chemical list provided for the Wilcox Sand in South Texas, and is called the Wilcox Hybrid Formulation, includes aromatic hydrocarbon, bronopol, organic acid, metal oxide, silicate, organic and inorganic salts, polysaccharide, silica, alcohol, aldehyde, glycerin, hydrocarbon-petroleum distillate, aluminum silicate, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, oxylkylated phenolic resin, phenol, phenolic resin, organic phophonate, alkyl phenol ethoxylate, carbonate, hydroxide, borate, silicone, bicarbonate, oxidant, sulfate, zirconate, and water. This list also contains multiple entries for several chemicals with multiple uses and are the constituents used to form the various additives used. There is also a footnote to this list, stating that not all substances used in the fracking process is disclosed due to agreements with both suppliers and customers that these will be protected.
4. Fracking consumes an approximate five million gallons of water during the fracturing and completion of each well (Cid_Yama, 2015). According to ConocoPhillips, the majority of water used is “may be obtained from surface water, groundwater, municipal suppliers, treated wastewater from municipal and industrial treatment facilities, and recycled, produced water. Opponents maintain that fracking reduces the water supplies in the areas these methods are utilized, yet research performed by Carnegie Mellon University indicates that the amount of water in the Marcellus region, where the Marcellus wells are located, were an “adequate” amount to support fracking as the amount of water used to drill 2,916 wells was comparable to the usage of residents in Pittsburgh, PA, during the same period of time (McGraw). However, Ceres released a report on 05 February 2014 indicated that since 2011, nearly fifty percent of fracking wells was located in areas in which water resources were already scarce, with eighty percent of available waters was already allocated for other uses (Moskowitz). This report don’t say that the fracking is a direct cause of drought conditions, but indicates it is a major contributor.
5. The wastewater that remains following the fracking process are either stored in injection wells, delivered to water treatment facilities, or reused or recycled (energyfromshale). The method used is dependent on local and state ordinances as well as the allowable capacities at water treatment plants and available disposal options.
Fracking have the potential to cause several environmental issues, such as contamination of water sources, physical issues for those residing in these areas of high concentration of fracking wells, a resulting effect on wildlife, and natural disasters including earthquakes. There have been several incidences recently where the methods used to contain or transport wastewaters have failed, releasing millions of gallons of contaminated water into the wild. On 07 January 2015, it were publicly reported that a wastewater pipeline leak in North Dakota released an estimated three million gallons of wastewater into a creek that feeds into the Missouri River. This wastewater contains an extremely high concentration of brine, and could possibly contain other contaminants, such as petroleum and metal filings (Scheyder), as well as the other additives used at that location. Meadowlark Midstream Company, a subsidiary of Summit Midstream Partners, which operates the wells where this incident occurred, claims that there is no known effects on humans or wildlife and is actively attempting to comply with the regulations in North Dakota to ensure that cleanup efforts are effective. The extents of the effects on the area is not expected to be completely evaluated until the spring when climate conditions have changed and the winter snow has dissipated (Meadowlark midstream company).
There are potential effects on humans as the chemicals increase air pollution. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitored the gas wells in Weld County, Colorado, and determined that an estimated 4 percent of methane gas produced during the mining operations is inadvertently released into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of the carbon emissions released by one to three million automobiles (Hoffman). Scientists with Duke University have recently released reports stating that high levels of ammonium and iodide has been discovered in streams and rivers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia following wastewater spills or discharges. These levels, in addition to the high levels of salts, barium, and radioactive elements, as well as the other chemicals used in the fracking process, could create respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatological, and ocular illnesses. The majority of these chemicals have the potential to be neuro-, immuno-, and nephrotoxic or endocrine disruptors while the minority are carcinogenic in nature (Publichealthwatch).
While the process of drilling below the surface of the earth and forcibly creating fissures within the rock has not been directly connected to earthquakes, the disposal of the wastewater have. The injection wells are also deep beneath the surface of the earth by thousands of feet and encased in concrete. If the disposal wells are not level when placed, any disruption in the pressure contained within cause the contents to shift, which in turn, cause the tanks to shift. This occurs as the tanks are opened to receive more wastewater. These shifts then cause the surrounding ground to react, resulting in earthquakes. To date, majority of these quakes have registered minimal readings on the Richter scale, with readings registering 3.0 or lower, but as more fluids are injected into the wells, these readings are expected to increase (Connelly, Barer, and Skorobogatov).
While fracking companies are required to comply with federally mandated laws concerning pollution, Congress created a loophole in a 2005 energy law that does not provide regulation under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking wastewater (Lavelle). This loophole is commonly known as the Halliburton Loophole due to the implication Vice President Dick Cheney assisted with the creation of this deregulation as a result of his previous tenure as Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton. Legislation has been introduced recently that would effectively close this loophole and require oil and gas companies to provide full disclosures of all the chemicals used throughout the fracking process (Earthworks, n.d.). This create situations in which each state is responsible for passing legislation of this nature. Currently, President Obama is proposing new regulations specifically aimed toward reducing the methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations in an effort to reduce these emissions by forty to forty-five percent during the next ten years (Bastasch).
6. It appears as if the majority of the proponents of fracking have a vested interest in the practice. These are the gas and oil companies and the principals that comprise those entities. It seems as if this is a case where money is the primary motivator. The more vocal opposition is provided by environmental groups. This contradiction leads one to have to determine which side is presenting the preponderance of evidence. Personally, the reality is that them with the most money available often have the ability and motivation to sway both government entities as well as public perception. This alone presents an argument for further discussion and research. Logically, drilling beneath the surface of the earth has to present an environmental impact at the very least. There is not an infinite amount of damage that humans can cause the earth without an expectation of long-lasting effects and it is arrogant at best to believe so. Until further studies are conducted in an effort to gauge the overall damage instead of isolated incidents, and the money trail leading to the White House is halted completely, fracking should not be considered a viable solution. At one point in time, drilling for oil was considered to be a safe practice as well until numerous disasters, including the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico proved otherwise. How long do humans expect to be able to rape the earth without consequence? It is not time to end these practices to ensure the sustainability of our planet for future generations or do we exist in an environment where the here and now is all that matter?
Bastasch, Micheal. Boom to bust? Obama targets America’s ‘fracking’ revolution. 14 January 2015. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://dailycaller.com/2015/01/14/boom-to-bust-obama-targets-americas-fracking-revolution/>.
Cid_Yama. Mystery Texas water defecit. Peak oil. 02 February 2015. Web. 08 February 2015 <http://peakoil.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=70944 >.
Connelly, Kelly, Barer, David, and Skorobogatov, Yana. How oil and gas wells can cause earthquakes. National public radio-NPR. n.d. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/earthquake/>.
Hoffman, Joe. Potential health and environmental effects of hydrofracking in the Wlliston Basin, Montana. On the cutting edge. 2014. Web. 08 February 2015 <http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/hydrofracking_w.html>.
Hydraulic fracturing: Top 10 things you should know about fracking. ConocoPhillips. n.d. Web. 08 February 2015. <https://www.powerincooperation.com/issues.aspx?issue=hydraulicfracturing#sthash.xVGabJYL.dpbs>.
Lallanilla, Marc. Facts about fracking. LiveScience. 23 January 2015. Web. 07 February 2015 <http://www.livescience.com/34464-what-is-fracking.html>.
Lavelle, Marianne. Fracking brings ammonium and iodide to local waterways. Scientific American. 14 January 2015. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fracking-brings-ammonium-and-iodide-to-local-waterways/>.
Light, John. How much fracking is happening in the Gulf of Mexico? grist.org. 10 January 2015. Web. 07 February 2015 <http://grist.org/news/how-much-fracking-is-happening-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/>.
List of bans worldwide. KeepTapwaterSafe.org. 04 February 2015. Web. 07 February 2015 <http://keeptapwatersafe.org/global-bans-on-fracking/>.
McGraw, Seamus. Is fracking safe? The top 10 controversial claims about natural gas drilling. Popular mechanics. n.d. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/g161/top-10-myths-about-natural-gas-drilling-6386593/?slide=2>.
Meadowlark update. Meadowlark midstream company. 05 February 2015. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://www.meadowlarkupdate.com/>.
Moskowitz, Peter. Report finds fracking drains water from drought-stricken states. Al jazeera. 06 February 2014. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/6/report-finds-frackingcouldexacerbatewatershortageinmuchofus.html >.
Scheyder, Ernest. Millions of gallons of saltwater leak into North Dakota creek. Reuters. 22 January 2015. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://news.yahoo.com/nearly-three-million-gallons-saltwater-leak-north-dakota-162500618--finance.html>.
Scientists discover two new toxic chemicals in fracking waste. Publichealthwatch. 19 January 2015. Web. 08 February 2015. <https://publichealthwatch.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/scientists-discover-two-new-toxic-chemicals-in-fracking-waste/>.
SouthTexas-Wilcox hybrid formulation. Halliburton. n.d. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://www.halliburton.com/public/projects/pubsdata/Hydraulic_Fracturing/fluids_disclosure.html>.
The Halliburton Loophole. Earthworks. n.d. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/inadequate_regulation_of_hydraulic_fracturing#.VNgsFy4eqTI>.
Oregon state profile and energy estimates. U.s. Energy Information Administration. 19 June 2014. Web. 08 February 2015. <http://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.cfm?sid=OR>
What is fracking? EnergyFromShale. n.d. Web. 07 February 2015 < http://www.what-is-fracking.com/what-is-hydraulic-fracking/>.
What chemicals are used? Fracfocus. n.d. Web. 07 February 2015 <https://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used>.
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