In recent years, Hydraulic fracturing, or « fracking, » is a widely–used way to get oil and gas from deep beneath the surface. It involves injecting water, sand, and other substances into rock formations at high pressure.
Hydraulic fracturing was first used in the United States in the late 1940s. Used extensively in US and Canada, it facilitates the development of natural gas reserves in shale formations beneath large areas. In 2015, more than 90 percent of the natural gas produced in the United States was produced using this technique. In the decade leading up to the present, natural gas production in the U.S. has increased by nearly 50 percent while oil production has risen by approximately 150 percent. Much of that growth has been driven by advances in hydraulic fracturing technology, enabling companies to produce oil and gas from increasingly deeper and more complex deposits.
In particular, fracking poses threats to water resources and air quality, making it a subject of increasing concern among scientists and activists. This article will explore three crucial questions regarding the potential harms of fracking: the risks to water resources, the effects on air quality, and the methods of minimizing the impacts of fracking.
What are the risks to water resources?
The most serious risk associated with fracking is its potential to contaminate groundwater. The fracking process itself involves pumping large volumes of water, combined with sand and chemicals, into the earth’s surface. This water is then forced into underground rock formations, where it fractures the rock and releases natural gas or oil. If this water is not properly contained, it can leak and contaminate groundwater with fracking chemicals. Furthermore, fracking can also cause earthquakes, which can damage underground aquifers, leading to contamination or disruption of water supplies.
How does fracking affect air quality?
Fracking can also adversely affect air quality. The process releases chemicals and other pollutants into the air, including methane, benzene, and formaldehyde. These pollutants can have a range of health effects, including respiratory issues, headaches, and nausea. Furthermore, fracking can worsen existing air pollution, as it releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that react with sunlight to create smog. This smog can lead to increased respiratory illnesses, particularly among children and the elderly.
What can we do to minimize the impacts of fracking?
There are a number of measures that can be taken to reduce the risks associated with fracking. Companies should be required to use closed–loop systems for wastewater, and reduce the chances of it leaking into groundwater supplies. In addition, governments should set strict air quality standards and require the best available tech to reduce emissions. Finally, governments should also monitor and regulate fracking operations for safety.
In conclusion, while fracking can be an effective means of energy production, it can yield energy but can damage water and air. It is therefore important that governments and companies must minimize risks and use caution. and ensure that fracking is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. I highly recommend watching the documentary called « GASLAND », written and directed by Josh Fox. The film was a key mobilizer for the anti-fracking movement, and « brought the term ‘hydraulic fracturing’ into the nation’s living rooms » according to The New York Times.