Fracking explained_ opportunity or danger

What is hydraulic fracturing - or “fracking”?

 Since the industrial revolution, our energy consumption has increased continuously. Most of this energy consumption is fueled by fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about a controversial method of extracting natural gas: Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking". Simply put, "fracking" describes the collection of natural gas from the deepest layers of the earth. In this method, the porous stone is fractured through water, sand and chemicals to release the closed natural gas. This technique of "fracking" has been known since the 1940s.

Photo by Lucas Miguel on Unsplash

However, there has only been a boom in "fracking" in the past ten years, especially in the United States. This is because most of the natural gas sources in America and Europe have been exhausted. As a result, prices for natural gas and other fuels are rising steadily. Significantly more expensive and complex methods, such as "fracking", have now become more attractive and profitable. Meanwhile, "fracking" has been used more than a million times in America alone. Over 60% of all new oil and gas wells are extracted through "fracking".

 let's take a look at how fracking works.

 First, a well is drilled hundreds of meters into the ground. From there, a horizontal hole is drilled in the gas-bearing layer. Then the fracturing fluid is pumped into the ground using high performance pumps. On average, the fluid consists of 8 million liters of water which equals the daily consumption of 65,000 people, several thousand tonnes of sand and roughly 200,000 liters of chemicals. The mixture penetrates the rock layer and produces innumerable small cracks. The sand prevents them from closing. Chemicals perform a variety of tasks.

 Among others, they condense water, purge bacteria or dissolve minerals. Then most of the fracturing fluid is pumped to the surface. Now the natural gas can be recovered. As soon as the gas source is exhausted, the drilling orifice is blocked. As a rule, the liquid is pumped back into the deep layers of the earth and sealed there. However, fracking is also associated with several considerable risks. The primary risk is contamination of drinking water sources. Fracking doesn't just consume large amounts of fresh water, the technique contaminates the water itself as a result and is very toxic.

The contamination is so severe that the water cannot even be purified in a treatment plant. Even if the danger is known and could be managed accordingly, sources in the United States have already been contaminated due to neglect. No one knows today how water will behave in the future, since there have been no long-term studies on the subject. The chemicals used in fracking vary from risky to extremely toxic and carcinogenic, such as benzol and formic acid. The corporations that use fracking say nothing about the precise composition of the chemical mixture. It is known that there are almost 700 different chemical agents used in the process. Another risk is the release of greenhouse gases.

The gas recovered by "fracking" consists largely of methane, a gas 25 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Natural gas is less harmful than coal when it is burned, but nevertheless the negative effects of "fracking" on the climate balance are mostly larger.

Negative effects on the climate

First, the process of "fracking" requires enormous energy consumption.
Second, the drill holes are quickly exhausted and it is necessary to drill fracturing holes much more frequently than for conventional wells.
 In addition, almost 3% of the gas found is lost in extraction and escapes into the atmosphere. So how can we assess "fracking" and its expected benefits when these are balanced against the disadvantages? When used the right way, technique provides a way in the short and medium term to meet our needs for energy at minimal cost. For the longer term, the consequences of "fracking" are unpredictable and the dangers it poses to drinking water should not be underestimated. Subtitles made by the community

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