Hydraulic fracturing is a 21st century method applied to extract gas from the rock bed in the Earth’s crust. It is commonly referred to as ‘fracking’. The process is carried out by breaking apart the rocks by the addition millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals preceded by the explosion of the rock bed. It is most commonly practiced in the United States; this technique hasn’t been applied in other countries a lot. It is predicted that this would be a solution the ever rising prices of oil and natural gas due to abundance of potential shale gas reserves. Hydraulic fracturing is not a method used for extraction of conventional natural gas.
‘Shale gas’ is a form of natural gas, yet different from the conventional natural gas. Shale gas is not found in a crude oil bed unlike natural gas, whereas it is trapped in rocks. Although shale gas has been produced for over a hundred years in the United States, it only recently became a principle source of fuel and ever since then, large scale operation are being carried in order to extract shale gas by the process of hydraulic fracturing. It is to be remembered that due to the low permeability of the shale rock, its commercial use is not very high due to lack of adequate technology. The risk of drilling and not finding sufficient gas is very low as the operational cost is very low. However, at the same time, the gas extracted may have an utilizable output of merely 20 percent, so a large reserve doesn’t necessarily mean high profits.
The current situation of sky-rocketing prices of crude oil and natural gas is booming the shale gas industry. The cheap method to extract gas by hydraulic fracturing and the large potential reserves make this method a very important source of extraction in the near future. Countries like the United States and China, the two largest consumers of mineral oil will be most benefitted from this as these are the two countries reportedly having largest reserves of shale gas, and have the adequate technology to conduct the process of hydraulic fracturing and efficiently extract the shale gas. This might be the only solution to the growing demand of fuel and probably the best way to counter-act against scarcity of natural gas and petroleum.
At the same time, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. The bane to this is the very process of hydraulic fracturing. During the process of hydraulic fracturing, a lot of chemicals are added to the ground water; as a result the water gets contaminated. The main cost-saving technique in this process is that a single well can be dug and entire gas in the region can be extracted, meaning the extraction range is higher. This calls for the use of explosives the blast the shale rocks underneath and then collects the gas.
This is detrimental to the environment as it is known to affect the Earth’s plate tectonics, meaning the possibilities of Earth quakes increases multiple folds. Various organizations have led protests in various countries to get the governments to enforce a ban of hydraulic fracturing, citing its hazards. The most recent protest was seen in Philadelphia in October 2012 where lakhs of people gathered around the famous 30th Street and raised banners and slogans motivating the government to ban the entire process of fracking citing serious environmental issues.
Technically, hydraulic fracturing can be defined as the process by which shale gas is extracted from the rocks underneath the earth by exploding the rocks and trapping the gas.
1. http://www.propublica.org/special/hydraulic-fracturing-national 2. http://www.quora.com/Hydraulic-Fracturing/What-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-fracking 3. Sampson, Antony, The Seven Sisters, Viking Adult (October 27, 1975) 4. http://www.ftp.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=California_and_fracking 5. http://www.en.wikipedia.org/hydraulic_fracturing
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Topic: Hydraulic Fracturing
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