Hydrofracking or hydraulic fracturing is the process of creating fractures in a reservoir comprised of oil or gas to create a surge in flow. Fluid is pumped into a well at a rate of pressure stronger than the rock can endure, causing fractures to form.
Workers stand on a platform hundreds of feet above the ground, drilling into the shale vertically, turning 90 degrees to shift horizontally and finally using high pressure to pump chemicals, water and sand in to release the natural gas. The high pressure of the water effectively forms fractures in the rock and the chemicals and sand help to open them.
The natural gas is confined deep within the fractures of these rocks. Hydrofracking makes it possible for drilling companies to remove it from shale reserves, such as the Marcellus, which is located more than one mile under parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.
Environmental Impacts of Hydrofracking
Hydrofracking can have a negative impact on communities and residents in the areas where drilling occurs. During a production cycle, activities are in progress around the clock, which can result in complications for both the environment and public health.
Companies do use well casings to prevent methane and toxic fluids from polluting groundwater, but these devices have an exceptionally high failure rate. In fact, studies have revealed that six to seven percent of well casings have an immediate failure rate, while 50 percent do not last longer than 30 years.
Some of the most alarming concerns associated with hydrofracking including:
- Air pollution caused by the venting and leaking of toxic gases.
- Disruption of natural flow of groundwater, as the process consumes up to nine million gallons of water per well.
- Increased smog production.
- Transport of hazardous waste stored at drilling sites to landfills and sewage treatment plants on public roads.
- Contamination of water wells, springs, creeks and rivers used for drinking water.
- Danger to local wildlife.
- Immensely salty brine may cause damage to freshwater streams and lakes and destroy infrastructure.
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