- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Hydraulic fracturing started out as an “exploding torpedo” back in 1865. Today, the actual process has made giant technological strides, but now, it’s the topic that’s explosive.
Because of a lack of understanding about the process, reactions are often “explosive” —even to the point of causing family feuds. The biggest concerns are about water and chemicals.
There are accusations that fracking is taking billions of gallons of water out of the hydrologic cycle — which poses an exacerbated problem in the arid southwest.
The process of hydraulic fracturing has advanced from the first nitroglycerin “torpedo,” and well acidizing of the 1930s, to the modern mix of high pressure, water, and chemicals that began in the 1940s — and it continues to evolve.
Today, less and less freshwater is being used. A typical frack job can use two to three million gallons of water and lasts about three days. The procedure can result in decades of oil or gas production.
With the development of new technologies, the fracking process can be done with brackish water that may be as much as ten times as salty as seawater. Producers in west Texas are fracking with the brackish water from the Santa Rosa aquifer. They are then recycling the produced water — a byproduct of oil and natural gas drilling, and the flowback water — the fluid pushed back out of the well during fracking. Both forms of wastewater have historically been trucked to underground disposal wells.
Now, instead of trucking wastewater to a remote location, mobile systems can treat the water onsite and condition it to meet almost any specification the driller wants — resulting in a reduction of expensive truck traffic. The portable systems can treat 20,000-30,000 barrels of water per day. The same water can be recycled and used over and over again.
The result of these new procedures is, according to The Economist: “Clean water …pure enough to be used for irrigation, or even drinking water. …Alternatively, it can be re-injected into the ground during the next frack.”
Rather than taking water out of the hydrologic cycle, the oil-and-gas industry is actually often taking formerly unusable water, using it in fracking and then cleaning it up to a level where it can be introduced into the cycle as either irrigation or drinking water.
Many companies are developing revolutionary water treatment processes that neuter one of the biggest arguments against fracking.
In a Christmas conversation, I was asked: “Why do they need chemicals? Why don’t they just frack with water?”
I explained that the so-called chemicals are needed to provide lubrication for the tiny particles of sand that hold open microscopic cracks in the “fractured” rock that allow the oil or gas to escape. “As a woman, I am sure you’ve had your fingers swell. That makes it hard to get your rings off.” She nodded. “What do you do then?” I queried. “Soap up my hands,” she replied.
That is the role the chemicals play in the fracking process. But those chemicals are now mostly food-based and can be consumed with no ill effects — both Governor Hickenlooper (D-CO) and CNBC’s Jim Cramer have had a drink.
So, even if the chemicals did somehow defy geology and migrate several miles from the fracked well through the layers of sedimentary rock to the aquifer, they are not harmful.
If fossil fuel opponents can spread fear about fracking — with the goal of causing a federal fracking ban, they can virtually stop American oil-and-gas.
Keep these facts in mind. Not everyone will listen — but if more people know the truth they can help de-fuse the explosive conversation.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics and the environment through public events, speaking engagements and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.