How Evil is Fracking, Really?

No environmental issue is more contentious than the notorious oil production practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking.” I wanted to do a post to relate what I have seen firsthand. This isn’t a scientific article, so take it “as is.”

My credentials, such as they are, includes a background in basic physics, chemistry and engineering. I have a fair amount of mechanical aptitude as well. I am no “Ecotopia” style environmentalist, but after a few drives through New Jersey after growing up in pristine Alaska, I saw the need for good stewardship of the planet.

It used to be oil could only be feasibly exploited in places like Saudi Arabia, where large pockets exist. New oilfields (like the Bakken Formation) consist of shale (essentially oily rocks). By pumping massive amounts of water into the shale, oil starts to rise to the top.

One of the big concerns for people near “fracks” is the purported affects on local water tables. This is where I come in with my casing job. The first 2000 feet of the drill hole consist of 7 1/2 inch steel pipe, called surface casing. The first 2000 feet of the surface is where the aquifers are, and no chemicals, oil, or fracking water communicate with the earth for that first 2000 feet. From 2000 feet on down, chemicals, water, and oil communicate with the earth, safely beneath the water table.

Imagine it this way. You have a milkshake. The milkshake represents your water table. You have a straw that goes to the bottom of the milkshake. Now imagine beneath your milkshake is another glass with a Bloody Mary. Thats your oil. You want your Bloody Mary, but you don’t want any to get in your milkshake. So imagine a straw going through the milkshake, through a hole in the bottom of your shake glass, into the Bloody Mary below. That is casing. We can now use the straw to drink our Bloody Mary without contaminating the milkshake.

So I don’t think fracking threatens ground water. A big issue environmentalists have with fracking is that it is inherently wasteful. It takes about 1 million gallons of water for a frack, which must be brought in by polluting trucks. Also, fracking and horizontal drilling open up previously unrecoverable oil, meaning that the world will burn more
In other words, I think that environmentalists are more concerned about the new source oil than they are about fracking.

Is fracking the boogey man it is made out to be? I think the jury is still out.

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