Fracking: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know


Pumps at an oil field over the Monterey Shale formation where hydraulic fracturing is being done. (Getty)

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial and oft-considered dangerous method of collecting natural gas in North America. The proliferation of interest in the natural gas industry to use fracking has sparked passionate, often violent, protests with objectors saying the process could ruin the land and even make people very ill.

Here is what you need to know:

1. Fracking Requires Shooting Chemically Treated Water at Rocks

what is fracking


Hydraulic fracturing is the process of shooting a combination of sand, water, and chemicals through a pre-drilled hole to a level of almost 10,000 feet below the surface. There, the water and chemicals, when shot at a high enough pressure, and cause cracks in the shale rock, allowing natural gas to funnel into the drilled path and to the surface. The sand wedges itself between the cracks, allowing the gas to continue to flow freely to the surface.

Some 40,000 gallons are used per fracturing, and the solution uses around 600 different chemicals including lead, uranium, mercury, formaldehyde, methanol and hydrochloric acid.

2. Fracking Allows for the Use Shale Natural Gases

Above you can see a map of the location of shale around the world. You can see a high concentration over the eastern United States, and in western Canada. Shale gas is a type of natural gas trapped inside rock. As of 2010, shale gas made up around 20 percent of the United States’ oil production.

3. Fracking Makes Water, Soil, and Air Near it Unsafe

Used water is often held in large reservoirs near the pumping sight, both at this location and when it is blasted into the ground, dangerous chemicals can easily seep into ground water or well water endangering people who live nearby. The video above is just one of many on Youtube of people demonstrating how natural gas released often comes through their pipes, allowing regular drinking water to to light on fire.

4. Fracking Supporters Say the Process Creates Jobs & Curbs Reliance on Foreign Oil

fracking fire


In an age where oil is becoming more and more valuable, and the reliance on foreign production of natural gas is often a national security issue, supporters of fracking support the technique which would allow for more natural gas production domestically.

Marcellus Shale, the shale beneath most of Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia, is estimated to be able to produce around 493 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in during its estimated 100 years of production. According to Popular Mechanics, that’s enough gas to be able to run every natural gas burning device in the country for about 20 years.

5. Protests Against Fracking Are Happening Everywhere



Protests across the country, and even in other countries like the UK where fracking is a possibility for natural gas companies, have popped up to oppose large scale fracking and they dangers it poses.

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