You may have heard of fracking but do you know what it is? The name fracking is derived from a process called hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is a process which involves drilling into the ground and causing minor explosions in order to break hard rock so that the oil and gas contained within can be released. More often than not, the drilling is horizontal rather than the vertical normally associated with oil prospecting. This process is quite controversial because experts are unable to agree on how dangerous fracking actually is. There have been incidences of harmful chemicals used in the process finding their way into fresh water courses and other suspect incidents where earthquakes may have been triggered following fracking activity.
Hydraulic fracturing is a way of retrieving natural resources from under the earth's crust. There are a great deal of resources locked into the rock such as oil and natural gas. The oil and gas industry are making use of this process to extract the raw materials for energy production. To begin with, production wells are drilled usually vertically and then horizontally. It all depends upon the location of the locked in oil or gas which can be thousands of feet away from the well. Specially formulated fluids are concocted and mixed with water and these are then forced at high pressure into the well. As the pressurised fluids are forced in, they cause the rock to fracture and break. When the required fracture is attained another chemical is pumped in. This chemical then ensures that the fractures stay open. When the fracturing is finished, the internal pressures cause the fracturing liquids to move up to be stored in tanks for recycling or for disposal. Recovered fracturing fluids are commonly called flowback. The disposal of flowback is either to inject it underground or to discharge it into surface water. If any of this is done incorrectly, the risks of environmental disaster is significant.
As with any activities extracting oil and gas, there are dangers to the environment and extracting shale oil and gas is considered to be a serious threat. There have been documented contaminations of water and surrounding environmental areas which has led to illness among both the human and animal populations. In some areas, it has been suggested that the fracking companies have not been observing regulations and have been careless in disposing of flowback. However, the big oil companies are investing significant amounts into fracking technology and how it can be made safer and more efficient. There is a vast amount of oil and gas which is untapped and is trapped within the rock or in sand. Obviously, this mass of resources amounts to billions of dollars worth of oil and if it could be extracted with relative ease, it would be in the interests of the oil companies to do this. However, they are also aware of the consequences of environmental damage and are loathe to be the cause.
As the need for oil and oil products increases with emerging markets such as India and China leading this explosion, more oil needs to be discovered to keep up with demand. As engines and machinery become more advanced and efficient, there is also a need for oil products to become better., which is why an army of scientists and engineers are constantly working to create new and improved ranges.