Hydraulic Fracking Dangers – Hydraulic Fracking Side Effects
With the increasing demand and reliance upon fossil fuels by an ever-expanding industrial and consumer base, the cost of these energy sources has also increased. This is particularly true of traditional fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, whose supply is rapidly diminishing. Exotic methods for extracting fuel from the ground, methods that used to be too expensive to employ, are now becoming cost competitive with the more traditional ways fossil fuels are obtained. One such method is called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Far from being a risk-free procedure, however, there are several hydraulic fracking dangers and side effects.
Hydraulic Fracturing Pros Cons
The benefits of such a process should be obvious. The United States maintains continued energy independence as other sources continue to diminish in availability; otherwise, there would be an increased need for importation. Fracking in the United States also promotes job creation and reinvestment in the local economy. Furthermore, the price of fueling our economy remains lower relative what it would otherwise be no such energy source available. In spite of these gains, there are costs associated with the practice of fracking that make it undesirable as a means to achieve energy independence. Overshadowing its benefits, environmental degradation, as well as danger to public health and safety represents byproducts of this practice.
Hydraulic Fracturing Explained
The theory behind fracking is that natural gases are trapped in rock layers deep within the earth crust, and by fracturing the layer of rock, these gases are freed for collection. The fracking process starts with a drill, which bores vertically about one to two miles deep into the ground. When the well reaches deep into the thick rock layer, the drill makes a 90-degree turn so that it is parallel to the ground. At this point, the drill can continue on for several thousand feet. Ports open up all along the horizontal section of tubing which travels with the drill, and a volume of water mixed with chemicals and sand are forced out at extremely high pressures. The rocks around the tube rupture and dissolve from the chemical mixture and the sand prevents the rocks from resealing once the pressure is removed. The same tube, which ejected the fluid, now collects a mixture of fluid and natural gases.
Contamination of Local Water Supplies – Hydraulic Fracking Dangers
Fracking is very damaging to the environment, and one of the consequences of its use is contamination of water supplies. For a single drilling operation, over 8 million liters of fresh water is used, along with 200 liters of chemicals and several thousand tons of sand. There are potentially hundreds of different chemicals that can be used in this operation, and their main purpose is to dissolve minerals, to compress water and to kill off bacteria. The problem is that many of these chemicals, such as benzene and formic acid, are very toxic to humans and animals. And there are many opportunities for this chemical mixture to leak into the environment and contaminate local drinking sources. As an example, fracking in Pennsylvania has been found to contaminate drinking water supplies with a compound called 2-BE, which is known to cause cancer in rats. Wildlife in neighboring lakes and ponds has been completely killed off by these chemicals as well.
Some Things are Best Left Untouched – Hydraulic Fracking Side Effects
It is not just the chemicals that are put into this mixture that can cause problems, however. Compounds that are locked into the rock strata along with the natural gas are released into the environment as a result of the fracturing process. For example, Radium 226 and Radon, two cancer-causing elements, are byproducts resulting from fracking of Marcellus Shale found in huge quantities in the Appalachian Basin in the Eastern United States. Methane, a combustible gas and a major component of natural gas, can also escape through water sources. In Flint Michigan, there are a number of videos produced showing tap water set on fire. Fracking is considered so dangerous that a number of states have already banned its practice. Vermont became the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing in 2012, followed by New York State in 2015 and Maryland in 2017. Aside from contaminating local water sources, fracking is a cause of other environmental devastation as well. The cracking of bedrock near areas with fault lines, such as in California, causes increased pressure in these areas and an increased incidence in earthquakes. This is also true in Oklahoma, where the practice of fracking is common. Furthermore, in areas where fracking displaces large volumes of water, large sinkholes result. This is the case of Bayou Corne in Louisiana, a site of massive sinkholes.
Benefit Which Comes at a Steep Price
To date, fracking has been used over one million times in the United States and over 60% of new oil and gas wells drilled involve the process of fracking. And while this helps supply us with ample energy for all of our needs, the cost in terms of environmental destruction and the impact on public health and safety is considerable. Unlike standard oil drilling which is purely a vertical process, resulting in a localized impact, the horizontal drilling of hydraulic fracturing, sometimes for thousands of feet, and the destruction of the surrounding bedrock layer does have devastating effects on the environment. With the movement of states to ban this practice, there is a growing realization among many that the gain in energy independence is not worth the cost.