Do you tremble in fear as you approach the drawer beneath your kitchen sink? Do you get mild panic attacks as you reach for that bottle of toilet bowl cleaner? If neither of these common everyday tasks put the fear of GOD you, then neither should fracking.
Fracking or Fracing?
The technical term is hydraulic (water-based) fracturing, which has taken on the often-negative moniker "fracking." I will stick with fracking in this article as that is what most people know and use.
To put it bluntly, the chemicals in your own home or apartment used in common everyday cleaning activities are far more dangerous/toxic than the chemical used in the process of fracking. Feel a little safer now? Did you know that frac fluid and ketchup have a common ingredient called guar? I certainly hope nobody is scared of ketchup because you are really missing out!
What Is Fracking?
Fracking has been around for well over a hundred years. Imagine your granite countertop. It looks solid as if no pore space could be filled with fluid like oil or water. Upon closer inspection, even your granite countertop has pore space. Rocks like this are deposited deep (up to 30,000 ft) in the earth's outer crust.
Fracking is simply the process of pumping water carrying beach sand into these tight rocks and causing them to create microscopic cracks that then fill with sand. Once you stop pumping, the forces of the earth close the gaps, but the sand keeps them ever so slightly open, thus allowing the fluid contents of the rock to flow into a roughly 5-inch hole that was previously drilled.
Hydraulic fracturing is a vital portion of the American energy system. Over time, it has brought substantial benefits to the United States as a whole in lowering energy prices, providing for greater energy security, reducing air pollution, and cutting back on the nation's carbon footprint.
What is in the Water?
Depending on the particular job, a typical frac fluid has guar, which makes it thick (like ketchup), biocides to kill bugs (like pool chemicals), soap to keep the fluid slippery and reduce friction, and various other components depending on the specific type of rock.
The water is just used to carry the sand and not damage the rocks being pumped into by causing clay swelling, which would be negative for oil and gas recovery.
How Is the Groundwater Protected?
Thousands of feet of rock protect the freshwater close to the surface, still pipe, and cement. It is worth noting that all water can be purified. We can turn ocean water into drinking water at a certain price. Water is never destroyed during fracking, and numerous precautions are taken so freshwater sources are not disturbed.
But Doesn't Fracking Cause Earthquakes?
The forces that cause earthquakes are strong enough to make mountains. The forces experienced during fracking are orders of magnitude lower than this. If fracking causes earthquakes, then a turtle might be able to beat Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash.
What Is Acceptable Risk?
Waking up in the morning and driving to work involves risk. Most of us are comfortable with it because we do this every day, and we accept this risk as this is an essential part of our lives. Oil and gas extraction and fracking are no different in that there are small risks involved in this process. Someone working on the location might get injured on the job. While there are risks in fracking, they are incredibly small and acceptable as fracking is essential in making the world go around.
It's unfair to deem fracking as an unacceptable risk when far fewer accidents and negative complications occur through the process than many activities that our society deems as "acceptable." We must evaluate the high-level benefits that fracking provides, such as affordable energy, good-paying jobs, and energy security for the country.
Are we going to turn away from all of these benefits for only minor complications that come along with fracking? That doesn't seem wise. We must come at this with logical thinking, not fear tactics induced by society and the media.
There Might Be a Boogie Man, but It Is Surely Not Fracking!
Governments and communities with eligible shale deposits for fracking will have to make decisions going forward as to whether or not to allow fracking. These communities must evaluate the facts, not fear tactics. With the facts, these entities can make decisions that maximize the benefits of fracking while minimizing costs for energy production in the United States.
Fracking keeps the power on and puts food on the tables for thousands of hard-working men and women across the United States. Let's stop making fracking out to be the boogie man and stick to the facts. After all, what's underneath the kitchen sink is not that scary after all!
About Adam Ferrari
Adam Ferrari is the founder of the mineral acquisitions company Ferrari Energy. He is a chemical engineer by degree and is an accomplished petroleum engineer by profession. He also has experience in the financial sector through his work at an investment banking firm. Under his leadership, his company has supported numerous charitable organizations, including St. Jude Children's Hospital, Freedom Service Dogs, Denver Rescue Mission, Coats for Colorado, and Next Steps of Chicago.