What is Fracking?
Fracking Is Unlocking Huge Energy Resources
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking, has proven to be a safe, well-tested technology that has enabled the U.S. to dramatically increase unconventional oil and natural gas production. Fracking has been performed in more than 1.2 million wells since 1949 with an exemplary safety record and no documented cases of contamination of drinking water.
The EPA has affirmed repeatedly during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations that there have been no documented cases of contamination of drinking water from hydraulic fracturing. Despite a 2004 study showing no contamination and lacking evidence of any contamination, the EPA is conducting yet another study of hydraulic fracturing, which is due for publication in 2014.
Below Are Some Basic Facts on Fracking:
- Fracking has been safely used since 1947.
- More than 1.2 million wells have been fracked in the United States.
- More than 90% of all oil and natural gas wells are fracked.
- Neither the EPA nor any state regulator have ever found a case of contamination of underground drinking water caused by the fracking process.
- Before a well is fracked, several separate layers of cement and steel are installed to protect groundwater.
- Fracking fluid is about 99.5% water and sand. The rest is a mixture of chemicals similar to household products found under the kitchen sink or in the garage.
- Operators disclose the chemicals used in fracking on FracFocus.org or via state regulators.
- The entire oil and natural gas industry, including fracking, represents about .025% of totalU.S. water use.
- Fracking is key to unlocking domestic oil and natural gas deposits so vast that by 2020 we will overtake Saudi Arabia in energy production.
- The oil and natural gas industry generates $1.2 trillion for the U.S. economy and supports 9.8 million jobs.
Successful State Regulation
States have successfully regulated fracking for over 60 years with exemplary safety records. New federal mandates are not necessary. Western production states have been leading the way and have all recently strengthened regulatory requirements.
Despite successful state regulation, BLM has proposed a new rule for fracking. The rule would add redundant regulations for oil and natural gas development on federal and Indian lands throughout the nation, and will particularly discourage investment and job creation in the West. There are no incidents of contamination from fracking on public or other lands that necessitate federal regulation, and BLM has offered no justification for proceeding with the development of these rules.
98% of wells on federal lands are located in just seven states: California, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Since 2010, these states have all revised their regulations or promulgated new rules specifically to address concerns about fracking. Nearly all of the remaining ten states that account for less than 2% of approved federal wells have amended their regulations to address public concerns. Economics firm John Dunham & Associates conservatively estimates that the proposed BLM rule would impose a cost to society of about $345 million annually, or about $96,000 per new well.
Minor earthquakes caused by human activities are called induced seismicity. Recently, fracking has been blamed for small earthquakes in Ohio, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. In response to concerns , the National Academies published a report on induced seismicity and energy technologies and found the process of fracking does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events. Small quakes that can be felt but do not significantly damage property or life have been linked to underground injection wells. Formal attribution to injection wells in the cases of Ohio and Arkansas has not been completed, but state authorities shut down the wells out of an abundance of caution.
Underground injection wells are used to permanently dispose of fluids deep underground or for enhanced oil recovery. Geologists have known for several decades that fluids pumped deep underground can lubricate faults, which can cause them to slip and induce small earthquakes. Although injection wells pose a risk for induced seismic activity, very few events have been documented over the last several decades relative to the large number in operation.
Underground injection wells are regulated by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, with some states delegated regulatory primacy. Before a UIC well is drilled, geologists look for faults and other geologic features in order to avoid them, and wells are designed to ensure fluids stay in the target rock formation. In response to concerns about UIC wells generating induced seismicity, several states have tightened their procedures. Injection wells are also monitored to ensure the fluids stay deep underground and do not contaminate groundwater. If earthquakes occur once a well is put into use and the seismicity can be linked to the well, it is shut in. For example, several earthquakes were felt in the area of a new UIC well in Ohio. The state shut down the well and the seismicity ceased.