The environmental truth about fracking

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Fracking – this hellish word equally electrifies people in America and Europe. What’s interesting is the fact that, when we name this process ‘hydraulic fracturing’, it has more positive overtones in the society, than when we use ‘fracking’. Are some people scared of the whole process or just the pejorative name? There are no reasonable proofs for the negative impact on the groundwater or causing local earthquakes by hydraulic fracturing process. The truth is far different…

Water

I decided to start with this matter first, because it causes the biggest buzz. The main environmental controversy over fracking is that this technique is very water- intensive. According to American data, about 3 million gallons (11 000 m3) is needed to frack one horizontal well. Too much? You’re very mistaken. This is just 0.034% of total withdrawn water each day in New York State. Fracking fluid, besides water (90%), contains sand (9.5%) and 0.5% of chemical additives, which are ingredients of cosmetics, household cleaners and food. Now let’s compare the use of water to produce 1 million British Thermal Units of energy:

  • natural gas: 3 gallons
  • nuclear power: 11 gallons
  • coal: 23 gallons
  • corn ethanol: 15 800 gallons
  • soy biodiesel: 44 500 gallons

Natural gas knocked out coal. In Texas, it generated 41% of energy in 2012. Two years earlier, coal was leading with 40%. This change makes the state less vulnerable to drought, according to study from the University of Texas.

Air

Positive influence on the air condition is an indirect effect of fracking. Lower cost of natural gas, caused by massive boost in shale gas extraction, turned the American industry to start moving from coal towards natural gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel. Since 2002, carbon dioxide output has grown 32% globally. In 2012, the US CO2 emission was lower by 8% than in 2002! Burning the natural gas also significantly reduces emissions of PM2.5 (microscopic dust particles, which penetrate the lungs where they are absorbed by the blood), sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and mercury.

Protecting habitat

Now I’ll show you why natural gas, thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling, overgreens ‘green’ energy. According to a SAIC/RW Beck research, such areas are necessary to generate a year’s supply of electricity for 1 000 households:

  • 0.4 acres – natural gas
  • 0.7 acres – nuclear power
  • 0.75 acres – coal
  • 6 acres – wind power
  • 8.4 acres – solar cells

The data shows that ‘green’ sources of energy are more environmental offensive. Since 2007, more than five million trees have been sawed thanks to wind farm development in Scotland. Fewer than 1.6 million was planted to replace them. This is the result of the Scottish plan to produce 100% of their energy from renewables by 2020.

These arguments show that American natural gas boom, thanks to revolutionary technique of fracking and horizontal drilling really changes positively not only the energy market and the American economy, but also the environment. If you really care about it, you should adore fracking!

Sources: telegraph.co.uk, energyfromshale.org, cityam.com,  nypost.com, fuelfix.com

Photos: sanleonenergy.com,  blogplos.com

About author

Jan Wypijewski

Deputy Editor-in-Chief of YoungPetro, in pursuit of his B.Sc. degree in Oil&Gas Engineering at AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow.

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