"If you're going to frack, please frack responsibly"
What is Fracking?
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is the process of taking millions of gallons of water, mixing it with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals – including known carcinogens – and pumping it all underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas.
In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year. This is approximately the annual water consumption of 40 to 80 cities each with a population of 50,000. Fracture treatments in coalbed methane wells use from 50,000 to 350,000 gallons of water per well, while deeper horizontal shale wells can use anywhere from 2 to 10 million gallons of water to fracture a single well. The extraction of so much water for fracking has raised concerns about the ecological impacts to aquatic resources, as well as dewatering of drinking water aquifers. It has been estimated that the transportation of two to five million gallons of water (fresh or waste water) requires 1,400 truck trips. Thus, not only does water used for hydraulic fracturing deplete fresh water supplies and impact aquatic habitat, the transportation of so much water also creates localized air quality, safety and road repair issues.
Sand & Proponents
Conventional oil and gas wells use, on average, 300,000 pounds of proppant, coalbed fracture treatments use anywhere from 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of proppant and shale gas wells can use more than 4 million pounds of proppant per well. Frac sand mines are springing up across the country, from Wisconsin to Texas, bringing with them their own set of impacts. Mining sand for proppant use generates its own range of impacts, including water consumption and air emissions, as well as potential health problems related to crystalline silica.
In addition to large volumes of water, a variety of chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The oil and gas industry and trade groups are quick to point out that chemicals typically make up just 0.5 and 2.0% of the total volume of the fracturing fluid. When millions of gallons of water are being used, however, the amount of chemicals per fracking operation is very large. For example, a four million gallon fracturing operation would use from 80 to 330 tons of chemicals.