Hydraulic fracturing - or 'fracking' - is a highly controversial practice to tap natural gas locked in the earth. While promising to deliver less polluting energy at lower costs, there is ample evidence that the rush to this energy source may be equally polluting, a danger to precious water sources and perhaps more costly in the long run. Banned in many countries and regions, fracking has become one of the most argued energy practices that have emerged in the last decade with earthquakes a potential by-product. Are the risks outweighed by the benefits? The industry's muscle has advanced this technology at a pace that has ignored, or overlooked, the science.

Development of technology financed by taxpayers, not industry.
Decades of federal support spurred the fracking boom. If we look at the history of how horizontal drilling techniques were commercialized, we find a strong base of government support through R&D, mapping techniques, cost-sharing programs, and billions of dollars in tax credits. The importance of federal assistance for new energy technologies and the establishment of a tax credit for drillers in 1980 that amounted to $10 billion through 2002, allowed the Department of Energy to provide crucial technical assistance during times of failure. “There’s no point in mincing words. Some people thought it was stupid,” said Dan Steward, a geologist who began working with the Texas natural gas firm Mitchell Energy in 1981. Steward estimated that in the early years, “probably 90% of the people” in the firm didn’t believe shale gas would be profitable. (September 2012)  link

Woodstockearthblog critiques the expansion of unlimited oil/gas through fracking while overlooking the problems for the environment. Link here to an article which refers to the industry’s marketing blitz to convince everyone about the benefits of ‘fracking’.
 The 800 pound gorilla in the room.


Latest news:

May 6 2016: Fracking boom in US and greenhouse emissions. More natural gas in the U.S. is coming from wells that have been hydraulically fractured than ever before, and fracking’s share of the country’s gas supply is continuing to rise, according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration: 67% percent of natural gas produced in the U.S. came from fractured wells in 2015. Coal consumption in the U.S. emitted about 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2015 while at the same time natural gas use emitted 1.48 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent. For the first time last year, natural gas contributed about the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as coal, the globe’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. link   



  • What is fracking?
  • The dangers of fracking
  • Fracking bans around the world
  • The technology
  • USA situation & Marcellus Shale

What is 'fracking'?

Hydraulic fracturing, also called “fracking” or “fracing” is a process that pumps a pressurized mixture of 99.5% sand and water with a small amount of special purpose additives, into a well bore to shatter the rock and release the gas. (The fracking process is currently exempt from federal regulation, and instead states apply their own rules to it.) The Natural Gas industry, which has been exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and CERCLA since 2005, has never been forced to publicly disclose the contents of the fluids it uses to fracture wells. The so-called Halliburton Loophole, inserted into the 2005 energy bill, was a gift of the Bush-Cheney administration (Halliburton invented the process of hydraulic fracturing), and essentially said that the EPA no longer had the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. link

May 2014: Too many knowledge gaps regarding safety. A new report commissioned by Environment Canada and authored by 14 scientists from across North America, recommends more information needs to be collected to understand the potential effects fracking could have on the environment. The report said the impact can’t be determined because the data to measure it isn’t there, making it hard to say fracking is safe - link

October 2009: New way to tap gas may expand global supplies. Extracting gas from layers of a black rock called shale are bringing oil engineers and geologists from Europe to the USA to learn the new methods. Shale is a sedimentary rock rich in organic material that is found in many parts of the world. It was of little use as a source of gas until about a decade ago, when American companies developed new techniques to fracture the rock and drill horizontally. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration and scrutinizing Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields. The global drilling rush is still in its early stages, but energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. (Shortages in Europe occurred in 2006 and 2008 because of disputes between Russia and Ukraine when Russia cut off natural gas deliveries.) Even the most conservative estimates are enormous, projecting at least a 20% increase in the world’s known reserves. link 

But the widespread use of fracking has raised concerns about potential contamination of drinking water supplies. Preventing underground leaks of fracking fluid requires proper installation of well casings and careful monitoring. Surface water contamination is also a concern because once drilling is completed the used fluids are brought to the surface and often stored in ponds that can leak. link 
The issue of disclosing chemicals employed in fracking is under heated debate as 2010 draws to a close. More  

April 2012: The Obama administration said Friday it is creating a high-level working group to coordinate federal oversight of natural gas production, amid industry complaints that excessive regulation could stymie a natural gas boom that has pushed prices to 10-year lows. In an executive order signed Friday, President Barack Obama said the group was needed to make sure a host of federal agencies that oversee drilling work together. link

CBS's 60 Minutes addresses both sides of the "Fracking" industry in this July 2011 segment - Shale Gas drilling:  Pros and Cons.

What the industry says . . .

The gas industry has used hydraulic fracturing for 65 years in 30 states with a “demonstrable history of safe operations,” said Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, a Washington-based research and advocacy group financed by oil and gas interests, in an e-mail. Drilling in shale deposits in the eastern U.S. began in 2004. The industry created a public website April 2011 for companies to voluntarily report lists of chemicals used in individual wells, including concentrations. Colorado and Wyoming have passed laws requiring drillers to file reports to the website, Tucker said. link

Improved technology, primarily horizontal drilling, developed over many years, now allows economic production of resources in deep water and large "unconventional" resources, which are difficult to produce. High and increasing natural gas prices have spurred more natural gas drilling and the trend to move from drilling simpler vertical wells to horizontal wells. In the late 1990s, about 40 drilling rigs, or 6%, were drilling horizontally. As of May 2008, the number of rigs drilling horizontal wells has grown to 519 rigs, or 28% of the total. link

The dangers of fracking

April 2016: Fracking’s total environmental impact is staggering. The body of evidence is growing that fracking is not only bad for the global climate, it is also dangerous for local communities. And affected communities are growing in number. The report, released today, details the sheer amount of water contamination, air pollution, climate impacts, and chemical use in fracking in the United States. “For the past decade, fracking has been a nightmare for our drinking water, our open spaces, and our climate,” Rachel Richardson, a co-author of the paper from Environment America, told ThinkProgress.  link

December 2015: Oklahoma lawsuit could end fracking in the state. Less than a week after state regulators shut down seven waste disposal wells in Oklahoma, two companies being sued for earthquake damages are asking the case be dismissed. Earthquakes have proliferated across Oklahoma in recent years as oil and gas production from fracking has exploded. The U.S. Geological Survey has linked disposal wells to Oklahoma’s earthquakes, which have gone from one or two a year to an expected 941 this year. In June 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that oil and gas companies could be sued for earthquake damages. link  

September 2014:  Well leaks, not fracking, are linked to contaminated water. A study of tainted drinking water in areas where natural gas is produced from shale shows that the contamination is most likely caused by leaky wells rather than the process of hydraulic fracturing used to release the gas from the rock. The study looked at seven cases in Pennsylvania and one in Texas where water wells had been contaminated by methane and other hydrocarbon gases. Both states have extensive deposits of gas-bearing shale that have been exploited in recent years as part of a surge in domestic energy production. Some environmental groups have suggested that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause the gas to migrate into drinking water aquifers.  link

July 2013: Shale gas - a gangplank to a warm future. An engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, says this gas is not “clean.” Because of leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, the gas extracted from shale deposits is not a “bridge” to a renewable energy future; it’s a gangplank to more warming and away from clean energy investments. Over a 20-year period, one pound of methane traps as much heat as at least 72 pounds of CO2. Its potency declines, but even after a century, it is at least 25 times as powerful as CO2. While there is uncertainty over the rate  of leaking, recent measurements by the NOAA at gas and oil fields in California, Colorado and Utah found leakage rates of 2.3% to 17% of annual production.  link

Health risks

December 2014: Study links fracking to infertility, birth defects. A new stud links shale oil and gas development to a host of developmental and reproductive health risks, and says the processes pose a particularly potent threat to what researchers called "our most vulnerable population”, children, and developing fetuses. link

April 2014: New study says fracking bad for climate and health. Scientists have long expressed concern about how the lack of data and access to drilling sites prevents a complete scientific assessment of how hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas production affect the climate, environment and public health. A new University of Texas-Austin study not only criticizes state and federal regulatory agencies for dismissing public concern about the health and environmental impacts of shale oil and gas development, but illuminates the large gap in understanding about what shale oil and gas production mean for public health and the environment in Texas and beyond.  link

June  2014: Air pollution spikes in homes near fracking wells. The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project has been conducting a “pretty aggressive” indoor air monitoring project since 2011 in the midst of Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom, particularly near unconventional wells that employed hydraulic fracturing. The project has documented sudden increases in particulate matter within homes, and a lot of the time they do happen at night probably because of stable atmospheric conditions that hold particulate matter low to the ground instead of dispersing it. link

October 2012:  GAO report concludes there are serious risks to health, environment.      A new report on shale resources and hydraulic fracturing from the GAO (Government Accountability Office), an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, concludes that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment.  link  

April 2011: Carcinogens threat.  A report released in Congress found more than 650 of the chemicals used in fracking were carcinogens. Environmental groups, and an investigation exposed several persistent dangers: leaks in wells owing to faulty casing or migration through layers or rock; breaches in the above-ground tanks meant to store used drilling chemicals; and a rise in air emissions. Meanwhile, a report challenged one of the fuel's main selling points, that shale gas is a low-carbon fuel. The study found that the carbon footprint for shale gas was far greater than conventional oil or gas or even. link

January 2014: Study shows fracking is bad for babies. The energy industry has long insisted that hydraulic fracking is safe for people who live nearby. New research suggests this is not true for some of the most vulnerable humans: newborn infants. Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011 found that proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half, from about 5.6% to more than 9% percent. link

June 2012: The downside of fracking is waste. Jeff Keller, a natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, reports oil companies are spilling and dumping drilling waste onto the region's land and into its waterways with increasing regularity. Companies produce millions of gallons of salty, chemical-infused wastewater, known as brine, as part of drilling and fracking each well. Drillers are supposed to inject this material thousands of feet underground into disposal wells, but some of it isn't making it that far. According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally. link

Fracking and earthquakes.

January 2016: Fracking shakes American West.  According to the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado, in 2014 Oklahoma experienced 585 such quakes. In 2015 there were 842. George Choy, a seismologist at the center said “That’s almost a millennium’s worth of earthquakes in two years . . . When you see that you suspect something is going on.” link

July 2014: Fracking connection to US quake surge. Massive injections of wastewater from the oil and gas industry are likely to have triggered a sharp rise in earthquakes in the state of Oklahoma. Researchers say there has been a forty-fold increase in the rate of quakes in the US state from 2008-2013. The scientists found that the disposal of water in four high-volume wells could be responsible for a swarm of tremors up to 35km away. link

July 2013: More evidence that fracking can cause earthquakes. As oil and gas industries pump waste into sub-surface wells, the pressure can weaken nearby faults and leave them vulnerable to seismic waves passing by from other earthquakes – even ones on the other side of the Earth, according to a new study published in the journal Science.  link  

April 2012: USGS scientists report “remarkable increase” in U.S. earthquakes almost certainly man-made. A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team has found that a sharp jump in earthquakes in America’s heartland appears to be linked to oil and natural gas drilling operations. link

March 2013: Fracking linked to 2011 earthquake in Oklahoma.

May 2012: New study predicts frack fluids can migrate to aquifers within years. A study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted. Scientists have theorized that impermeable layers of rock would keep the fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. This view of the earth's underground geology is a cornerstone of the industry's argument that fracking poses minimal threats to the environment. But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as "just a few years."  link  

Major insurance company considers fracking too risky. (July 2012) Nationwide is the first major insurance company to announce that it will not cover damages related to natural gas fracking operations, stating that after months of research and discussion, they determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. According to their statement, "From an underwriting standpoint, we do not have a comfort level with the unique risks associated with the fracking process to provide coverage at a reasonable price."  link

December 2012: Tougher fracking regulations backed by 66%, poll shows.  link

April 2011: Shale gas could be worse for climate change than coal. Cornell University researchers found that shale gas wells leak substantial amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas which makes its climate impact worse than conventional gas, and probably worse than coal as well. Figures indicate that over a 20-year period, the net warming impact of using shale gas is worse than coal, and, perhaps more surprisingly, that conventional gas may be worse than coal as well. Over a 100-year timeframe, conventional gas is almost certainly better than coal, but shale gas could be worse.  link

January 2011. Investigation finds Clean Air Act violated in fracking. Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act. link

February 2010: Two of the largest companies involved in natural gas drilling have acknowledged pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in the process of hydraulic fracturing of hydraulic, raising further concerns that existing state and federal regulations don't adequately protect drinking water from drilling. link 

December 2011: Landowners turn against leasing for fracking. Nearly half of the landowners who have leased their ground to shale gas developers in the north-east of America regret doing it, despite the money. In findings that will intensify opposition to the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, some 47% of respondents in the "new shale" states of Pennsylvania and New York, who have rented out their land, said they wouldn't repeat the experience. Meanwhile, 48% said they would advise family and friends against leasing their land for "fracking", a process which blasts sand, chemicals and water into shale rocks to release the oil and gas they contain. Fracking has become increasingly controversial in recent months, as the process was found to have caused earthquakes in Oklahoma in the US and near Blackpool in the UK. link  

The Halliburton loophole
Despite the widespread use of the practice, and the risks hydraulic fracturing poses to human health and safe drinking water supplies, the U.S. EPA does not regulate the injection of fracturing fluids under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials, unchecked, directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies. This exemption from the SDWA has become known as the "Halliburton loophole" because it is widely perceived to have come about as a result of the efforts of Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force. Before taking office, Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, which patented hydraulic fracturing in the 1940s, and remains one of the three largest manufacturers of fracturing fluids.  link    

                A critique of fracturing from a ProPublica investigation - link 

Fracking bans around the world

September 2014: Water shortage a challenge in 40% of fracking areas. A lack of available water could crimp energy development in many of the nations with the most abundant shale oil and shale gas resources, a new study predicts. Forty percent of the world’s countries with the largest shale oil and shale gas resources have arid conditions or steep competition for water, according to the World Resources Institute report, Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability & Business Risk.  link  

France - first country to ban fracking. The French parliament voted on June 30 2011 to ban fracking. The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country’s lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban. The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill’s critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported. link
October 2013: French court uphold ban on fracking. France's constitutional court has upheld a ban on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the law against fracking is a valid means of protecting the environment. France banned fracking in 2011 and cancelled exploration licences after protests by environmental groups. link

May 2012: Vermont to ban fracking. Governor Peter Shumlin made history today when he signed into law H.464, making Vermont the first state in the nation to ban natural gas fracking.  He says he hopes the law will be a model for other states to follow. It's largely symbolic for Vermont, where there's little, if any, natural gas underground. (96 towns in NY State have banned fracking, and New Jersey banned it for a year.) link

Bulgaria - second country to ban fracking. In January 2012, Bulgarian MPs voted overwhelmingly for a ban on fracking following big street protests by environmentalists. Bulgaria has revoked a shale gas permit granted to US energy giant Chevron. Critics say shale gas drilling can poison underground water and even cause earth tremors. link

reports from elsewhere . . . .

October 2013: Setback for the shale-gas industry in Europe. European Union lawmakers voted narrowly to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits before they deploy a technique known as fracking to recover natural gas from shale rock. Fracking is far less developed than in the United States and citizens are more concerned about the environmental impact of recovering the gas than about finding new sources of hydrocarbons as a way of combating stubbornly high energy prices. The rules must still undergo another round of voting in the Parliament once an agreement on final language is reached with European Union governments. link

November 2011: UK firm says shale fracking caused earthquakes. In the U.K., shale gas exploration triggered small earthquakes near Blackpool in northwest England in 2011  link

December  2012: Fracking shale gas set to begin again in UK. Energy and Climate secretary, Ed Davey lifted the suspension permitting fracking in an area where minor earthquakes caused suspension last year. Dozens more sites across the country could be licensed as ministers signalled their hope that shale gas would help to make up for the decline in North Sea gas supplies. link

April 2011: South Africa calls halt to fracking. South Africa's government has halted plans by the oil firm Shell to extract natural gas from the Karoo desert by using a method known as "fracking". The cabinet decided to stop the development until the ecological consequences have been studied.  link   Change of mind - Update - October 2012: In April 2011 South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Two weeks ago the DMR lifted the moratorium, specifically on fracking for shale natural gas and last week released the detailed version of the report it commissioned on hydraulic fracturing. South Africa ranks among the top ten global owners of shale gas resources, perhaps even as high as number five. link

Australia. Hydraulic fracturing has been suspended in New South Wales (NSW), but it is still being used in coal-seam gas mining in other states. A Senate committee recently called for a moratorium on all future coal seam gas fracking in the Great Artesian Basin in Queensland and NSW. Greens senator for Queensland Larissa Waters said the Wyoming USA case should be wake-up call for the nation. The Queensland Government has introduced legislation banning the addition of chemicals benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene in fracking operations. link   

March 2012: Eastern Canada shows concern about fracking. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has not faced the same wrath from environmentalists in Canada compared with the oil sands industry. That could change as the activity picks up pace in the country and stories from the United States where shale gas recovery has been blamed for contaminating water tables and even earthquakes, attract regulatory scrutiny. Although 70% of all gas wells in Canada now use fracking, the treatment remains divisive even within various provincial governments. Shale gas-rich Quebec has slapped a moratorium on fracking, while Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are hamstrung by public backlashes, which has made exploiting relatively low reserves politically unappealing. Meanwhile, pro-fracking provinces, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have allowed producers to use the method to access previously inaccessible gas resources. link

The technology

May 2011: Possible solution to fracking contamination.
An absorbent form of silica can remove nearly all petro-chemicals from the water produced by hydraulic fracturing in shale-gas wells, Energy Department scientists announced late last week. After field testing the modified silica, called Osorb, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory confirmed it can remove more than 99% of oil and grease from water, and more than 90% of volatile compounds that can poison drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing of shale has become increasingly important for freeing vast reserves of natural gas from shale formations in the United States, such as the Marcellus Shale formation under the Appalachian Mountains. But opposition to “fracking” has mounted because water injected underground to shatter the shale carries toxic hydrocarbons back to the surface and could imperil drinking water aquifers. Approximately 21 billion barrels of produced water, containing a wide variety of hydrocarbons and other chemicals, are generated each year in the United States from nearly one million wells. link

Shale Gas fracking- The Guardian supplies some facts and figures - link

April 2014: Major firm to disclose fracking chemicals. In a major shift quietly announced Thursday, a leading hydraulic fracturing supplier said it would begin disclosing all of the chemicals used in so-called fracking without regard to trade secrets. Houston-based Baker Hughes said it "believes it is possible to disclose 100% of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations, a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation." link

August 2012: Alternative to using water for fracking. Compressed carbon dioxide may be more suitable than water for fracturing methane-rich rock – a finding that could help the growing hydraulic fracturing industry extract more natural gas from spent fields. And because the carbon dioxide is then trapped below ground, the discovery could also spur the development of large scale carbon sequestration. link.

March 2013:Long-term costs of fracking are staggering. All the hype by the fossil fuel industry about energy independence from fracking in tight gas reservoirs like the Barnett Shale has left out the costs in energy, water and other essential natural resources. Furthermore, a recent report from the Post Carbon Institute finds that projections for an energy boom from non-conventional fossil fuel sources is not all it’s cracked up to be. The report by Canadian geologist David Hughes says the low quality of hydrocarbons from bitumen, shale oil and shale gas, do not provide the same energy returns as conventional hydrocarbons due to the energy needed to extract or upgrade them. Hughes also notes that the “new age of energy abundance” forecast by the industry will soon run dry because shale gas and shale oil wells deplete quickly. In fact, the “best fields have already been tapped.”  Is it worth the cost when it takes from 3 million to 9 million gallons of water per fracture to extract this fuel? When groundwater resources are used, aquifers can be drawn down and cause wells in the area to go dry. Once water is used for fracking, it is lost to the water cycle forever.  link

USA situation

June 2015:  EPA concludes fracking has contaminated drinking water. "Today EPA confirmed what communities living with fracking have known for years: fracking pollutes drinking water," said Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel. After years of asserting that hydraulic fracturing has never tainted drinking water, the Obama administration issued a long-awaited study  of the controversial oil and gas production technique that confirmed "specific instances" when fracking "led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells." The conclusion was central to a nearly 1,000-page draft assessment issued by the EPA to address public concerns about the possible effects of fracking on drinking water. Still, the EPA determined that the number of contamination cases "was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells." link

October. 2014: Methane from fracking rise 135% on federal lands. Methane emissions from fracking on federal lands more than doubled between 2008 and 2013, according to a report by left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. The report drew from Interior Department data to show that emissions of the potent but short-lived greenhouse gas rose 135% over the period. Much of the emissions were attributed to "venting" and "flaring" — meaning igniting excess natural gas produced at hydraulic fracturing sites. link

May 2014: US shale industry estimates unraveling. In June, the US Energy Information Administration will publish a new estimate of US shale deposits set to deal a death-blow to industry hype about a new golden era of US energy independence by fracking unconventional oil and gas. Previous estimates of recoverable oil in the Monterey shale reserves in California of about 15.4 billion barrels were vastly overstated. The revised estimate, they said, will slash this amount by 96% to a puny 600 million barrels of oil. Industry lobbyists have for long highlighted the Monterey shale reserves as the big game-changer for US oil and gas production. link

June 2013: EPA pushes back fracking impact study to 2016. The study, aimed at assessing the threats fracking poses to groundwater supplies and air quality, began in 2010 under the direction of Congress. The intent was to create a thorough assessment of the drilling method so states could make informed decisions on whether to ban fracking or regulate the industry. With the study’s release still years away, some observers question whether it will mean much at all, as horizontal drilling is already taking off in many states. In June 2012, there were more than 680,000 fracking wells throughout the country. This expansion of the industry will happen before the EPA study can provide guidance on the possibility of water contamination from the fracking process. The concern is that, once injected, those chemicals will seep into the groundwater supply. “In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” Mario Salazar, a former EPA engineer, told Scientific American. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.” link

October 2013: US shale-oil boom may not last: fracking wells lack staying power. A Chesapeake Energy well near Oklahoma City came in as a gusher in 2009, pumping more than 1,200 barrels of oil a day and kicking off a rush to drill that extended into Kansas. Now the well produces less than 100 barrels a day. The swift decline sheds light on a dirty secret of the oil boom: It may not last. Shale wells start strong and fade fast, and producers are drilling at a breakneck pace to hold output steady.  link

July 2013: Victory over fracking - gas drillers cancel leases in Pennsylvania. Two energy companies are pulling out of northeastern Pennsylvania, where 80,000 acres will no longer be subject to fracking. A three-year moratorium on gas drilling has infuriated landowners who say it’s now cost them a windfall of more than $187 million. The landowners were notified that their leases are no longer in effect, and it appears doubtful that any reputable drillers will be interested in continuing to drill there. (link)  In September 2012 more than 170 organizations from four states called on the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) urging them to maintain the ban on hydraulic fracturing throughout the Delaware River Basin. Opening up the basin to fracking would put the entire region at risk of numerous health and environmental hazards associated with fracking. New Jersey has enacted a moratorium on fracking as has New York State, states both fed by the Delaware River (link). [The Delaware is source of drinking water for 15 million people, including half the population of New York City.  The leases cover land where Josh Fox, producer of the Gasland documentaries lives.

April 2012: Obama administration sets first-ever national standards to control air pollution from fracking. The Obama administration is setting the first-ever national standards to control air pollution from gases released by fracking. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said: “This is an important step towards tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous air threats.” link

June 2013: Illinois adopts nation’s strictest fracking regulations. Legislation overwhelmingly passed both the Illinois Senate and the House in May. The law is now seen is as the nation’s strictest for oil and gas drilling. The legislation will force oil and gas companies to register with the Department of Natural Resources. In the permitting process they must detail how the well will be drilled, the amount of fluid used and at what pressure, how it will withdraw water, contain waste, and disclose the chemicals used. link

January 2012: U.S. doctors call for moratorium until health studies conducted. The U.S. should declare a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in populated areas until the health effects are better understood, doctors said at a conference on the drilling process. “We’ve got to push the pause button, and maybe we’ve got to push the stop button” on fracking, said Adam Law, an endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.  link

links to maps of shale distribution in the USA

June 2010: Wyoming first state to act on fracturing disclosures. Wyoming regulators have approved rules requiring oil and gas drillers to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, making it the first state to order companies to do so. link

February 2012.  The fracking industry buys Congress.  The fracking industry goes virtually unregulated. Why? The answer is money. The oil and gas industry has reaped billions in profits from fracking. And since 1990, they've pumped $238.7 million into gubernatorial and Congressional election campaigns to persuade lawmakers that fracking is safe, which has effectively blocked federal regulation. A natural gas drilling rush is on in rural North Dakota. And with it, residents are reporting growing numbers of respiratory ailments, skin lesions, blood oozing from eyes, and the deaths of livestock and pets. Elsewhere, residents of Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wyoming and other states who thought they'd hit the lottery by signing natural gas drilling leases have watched their drinking water turn noxious: slick, brown, foamy, flammable. In December, for the first time, federal regulators scientifically linked hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to the contamination of an aquifer, refuting repeated industry claims that the practice does not pollute drinking water.  link  

December 2011: More connections of quakes resulting from fracking. A string of tremors in Ohio, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas has raised the notion that efforts to unlock natural gas from shale rock are the causelink
March 2012: Officials say tremors in Ohio almost certainly caused by wastewater injection. A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth, state regulators said Friday as they announced a series of tough new rules for drillers. Among the new regulations: Well operators must submit more comprehensive geological data when requesting a drill site, and the chemical makeup of all drilling wastewater must be tracked electronically. Both could mean extra costs for gas drillers looking for new wells and ways to get rid of wastewater – much of which is trucked into Ohio from Pennsylvania, the region's top gas-producing state. The state Department of Natural Resources announced the tough new brine injection regulations because of the report's findings on the well in Youngstown, which it said were based on "a number of coincidental circumstances." For one, investigators said, the well began operations just three months ahead of the first quake. link

Food & Water Watch is a U.S. group tracking the latest local measures against hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and statewide efforts to stop or prevent the practice. (See state measures against fracking here.)

350.org takes on the fracking issue - link 

Marcellus Shale

The Marcellus Shale stretches through southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. The shale contains bubbles of methane, the remains of life that died 400 million years ago. Gas corporations have lusted for the methane in the Marcellus since at least 1967 when one of them plotted with the Atomic Energy Agency to explode a nuclear bomb to unleash it. That idea died, but it’s been reborn in the form of a technology invented by Halliburton Corporation: high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing -“fracking” for short. Fracking uses prodigious amounts of water laced with sand and a startling menu of poisonous chemicals to blast the methane out of the shale. At hyperbaric bomb-like pressures, this technology propels five to seven million gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water a mile or so down a well bore into the shale. Up comes the methane, along with about a million gallons of wastewater containing the original fracking chemicals and other substances that were also in the shale, among them radioactive elements and carcinogens. There are 400,000 such wells in the United States. Surrounded by rumbling machinery, serviced by tens of thousands of diesel trucks, this nightmare technology for energy release has turned rural areas in 34 U.S. states into toxic industrial zones.  In every fracking state but New York, where a moratorium against the process has been in effect since 2010, the gas industry has contaminated ground water, sickened people, poisoned livestock, and killed wildlife.  link

Marcellus Earth First is a regional network of people united in the struggle to stop fracking. link

October 2012: Marcellus much larger than previously thought. New research suggests that the Marcellus Shale natural gas field could contain almost half of the current proven natural gas reserves in the U.S, a much larger amount than previously reported. Earlier this year, the federal Energy Information Administration sharply lowered its estimates of Marcellus reserves, from 410 trillion cubic feet down to 141 trillion cubic feet; but that lowered estimate doesn't correspond with actual well production where analysis shows that the Marcellus contains about 330 trillion cubic feet of gas, more than double the size of the next largest field in the nation, the Eagle Ford in south Texas.  link   

[Back to Natural Gas page]

Copyright 2008 thinkglobalgreen.org   All Rights Reserved