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Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Research Paper

Hydraulic Fracturing Technology

Hydraulic fracturing or “Fracking” is a technological process that has been used for many decades in drilling for natural gas or oil. The steps are complex and involve the pumping of water, additives, and sand at high pressures into the well. This fluid fractures the rocks, consequently injecting Proppants inside the cracks to open them. The process is re-done until the maximum areas of the well can be reached. The pressure of the water is reduced while the fluids used are brought up the well for disposal or recycling (Anon, 2012a).

The process also involves the use of acids like hydrochloric acid, buffers, chemicals, sand, corrosion inhibitors, gelling agents, iron control, among others that help to make the process faster and more effective (Anon, 2012c). Some examples of rocks that were unproductive but are now used to obtain oil and gas include the Barnett Shale and Marcellus Shale. The additives are used for various purposes. For instance, they make the water thick, making a gel that serves the fracturing purpose effectively. Chemicals help in the reduction of friction and also curb rusting of the equipment used. This process, if used with horizontal drilling can increase the yield of the wells to a great extent (King, 2012).

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The process is a very sensitive one as the water supply has to be protected to avoid contamination. This is done by erecting steel surfaces of casings into the gas wells. These should be deep enough- ranging from a thousand to 4 thousand feet (Anon, 2011). The first time that hydraulic fracturing was used to emit oil and gas in the US dates back to the 1940s. After the success of this method, the rest of the world embraced the technology, which is now being used in various countries, globally like Parts of Nigeria, Mexico, the Niobrara Shale of Colorado, and Kansas (Uradnik, 2011).

Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing

Pennsylvania’s state regulations are in place to ensure that the many gallons of waste are properly disposed of. In August 2010, Pennsylvania passed new regulations that limited the amount of discharge of wastewater to five hundred milligrams during the drilling process. This recorded a positive impact on the industry as the rate of waste decreased between 2010 and 2011 (Shutts, 2011).

Another regulation is that all employees should have adequate access to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This has all relevant information regarding health hazards, ingredients of the chemicals used in the drilling process, precautionary measures, procedures, among other issues that are critical in the fracking process. Other citizens are free to get this information from manufacturers, state agencies, and companies or websites (Anon, 2012c).

Moreover, the law demands that all institutions that store chemicals give information on any hazardous chemicals they may have. This is to enable the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to take precautionary measures on the same (Anon, 2012c).

New Jersey’s legislature has recently passed a bill that bans fracking in the city. This will ensure that the drinking water in the water bodies does not get poisoned from the fracking exercise. Although the bill hasn’t been enacted into law, the legislatures advocate for the banning of the practice. If the bill is passed, the state would be the first in America to ban fracking exercises (Sheppard, 2011). In April 2010, there was a massive oil spillage that killed 11 workers and injured several other people in Mexico. This led to the enforcement of strict rules and policies in the country to avoid the recurrence of such cases (Uradnik, 2011).

Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing

The use of fracking technology has become highly controversial. Some people oppose while others support the idea. Those who support the idea of fracking argue that the technology if utilized effectively can be used to improve the countries’ oil production. This is because many rocks are so tight that it hinders oil from passing. This technology facilitates oil flow through such rocks. Without such technology, then millions of liters of oil would by lying underground without any means of extraction (Anon, 2012b).

The use of this technology has also benefited society by Employment creation. This is to thousands of experts employed to control the machines and generally oversee the hydraulic fracking process. Creating employment means that the vicious cycle of poverty is abolished and many people have better standards of living.

It is also a source of Government revenue as the government benefits from the sale of the extracted oil. Large-scale production of oil and gas means that the government revenues will increase, making a country financially stable. This means that countries can be self-sustaining by producing their oil, as opposed to reliance on other countries. This is beneficial because the prices of the products of the oil-producing countries can stabilize (Bachman, 2011).

The imposition of regulations on fracking technology by the government is beneficial to society. This is because those who produce the oil will be bound by strict rules that will ensure that the rights of citizens are always protected. For instance, the water for consumption will not be contaminated and the environment will be protected from degradation during the process.

Risks of Hydraulic Fracturing

However, there are an equal number of people, mostly environmentalists who greatly oppose technology. They argue that the following adverse effects are experienced due to the process. Aquatic resources: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a lot of water is usually wasted in the process of fracturing. This is approximately 150 billion water gallons, used in 3500 wells. The figure is close to the total amount of water consumed in over 50 cities annually. This is a waste of useful resources, and it compromises the quality of aquatic bodies as well as causes negative ecological effects (Anon, 2012c).

Sand and Proppants: Approximately 300,000 to 4,000,000 pounds of sand and Proppants are consumed in the gas wells during the process of fracturing. This is a health hazard in the sense that air omissions reduce the quality of air needed for human and animal survival (Alters, 2011). Toxic Chemicals: About 353 chemicals and additives are used in the drilling process, in America. Most of these chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde among others are toxic and thus harmful to human beings and wildlife. Such chemicals cause diseases like cancer, nausea, blindness, insomnia, dizziness, migraines, conjunctivitis, visual disturbances, skin complications, the eyes, respiration, the kidney, and blood among others. Infections can occur through inhaling the chemicals, coming to direct skin contact with the chemicals, or drinking contaminated water (Theo et al., 2011).

Waste Disposal: the waste that is not handled well causes great waste management challenges to the citizens. Surface Water and Soil Contamination: In the process of transporting, drilling, and disposing of waste, the soil, and water on the surface get contaminated. This hurts the environment (Anon, 2012c).

My Decision on Fracking and fracking regulations

Based on the facts here-in, it is right to conclude that the negative effects of the hydraulic fracking process are more than the benefits. This is enough evidence to conclude that the process should be banned. The regulations should not be abolished as they are beneficial to the countries where the process is practiced. In any case, Governments should impose more strict rules and regulations to be adhered to by the manufacturers and institutions of oil and gas (Nersesian, 2010). Several alternatives as methods of obtaining oil can be adopted. These include the Use of rocket fuel-like propellants.

These are applied in the gas wells to put pressure, adequate to cause fractures that create predictable patterns. Another alternative is the use of a foam that is subjected to high pressures. This is not an expensive method, and the impact of fracturing is reliable.

Expertise is needed in this area so that only the right amount of the proppant is used. Also, the direction of the fractures needs to be carefully determined. These alternatives if adopted are cheaper and less harmful to the environment and human health (Anon, 2012b). Chemicals should be clearly labeled, and a warning noted on any hazardous materials. Monitoring and evaluation programs should be conducted frequently to ensure the law is strictly followed all the time (Theo et al., 2011).

Fracking is an expensive undertaking and by countries embracing alternatives of cheaper energy sources, then the revenues would increase while the expenditures would decrease. It is advisable to move to alternatives like solar energy, wind, and other renewable sources of energy. Apart from reducing costs, these alternatives are perfect for fighting global warming, which is a great menace to the whole world (Alters, 2011).

References Cited

Alters, S. (2011). “Energy: Supplies, Sustainability, and Costs.” 41-56. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning.

Anon, 2011. “Hydraulic Fracturing: The Process” Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. .

Anon, 2012a. “Hydraulic Fracturing Facts; the Process.” Chesapeake Energy. Web.

Anon, 2012b. “Hydraulic Fracturing.” The National Energy Laboratory Technology. Web.

Anon, 2012c. “Hydraulic Fracturing 101.” Earthworks. Web.

Bachman, M. (2011). To ‘Frack’ or not to ‘Frack’?” EcoWatch Journal. Web.

King, H. (2012). Hydraulic Fracturing of Oil & Gas Wells Drilled in Shale. The Geological Society of America. Web.

Nersesian, R. (2010). Energy for the 21st century: a comprehensive guide to conventional and alternative sources. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe; 1-401.

Sheppard, K. (2011). “To Frack or Not to Frack?” Mother Jones. .

Shutts, S. (2011). “Hydraulic Fracturing: treatment and disposal of fracking fluid waste.”Hydraulic Fracturing information sheetNational Wildlife Federation. Web.

Theo, C, Carol, K, Kim, S and Mary B. (2011). “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective, human and ecological risk assessment.” An international journal. 175:5, 1039-1056. Web.

Uradnik, K. (2011). “Energy Policy; Government and Politics.” Gale Virtual Reference Library. Vol. 1. 206-217.