Fracking and its Effect on the Environment

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Oil and natural gas companies have developed a way to drill for natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Natural gas is a flammable gas mixture consisting of methane and several other hydrocarbons that occur naturally underground. Natural gas is used as fuel for heating, cooking, and even in some automobiles like the “RideOn” buses. This technique has only recently become economically feasible with the rising prices of fossil fuels, and there is much potential for recovering natural gas through fracking. However, fracking has many waste products and unusual side effects caused by the unnatural forces and materials used. Fracking has a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment through pollution and earthquakes.
Fracking is the process of extracting natural gas from layers of shale rock deep within the earth. One of the world’s largest plays of natural gas is in the Marcellus Shale, is located in the Appalachian basin and extends across New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, eastern Ohio and portions of Kentucky and Tennessee. “Plays” are areas where companies are actively looking for natural gas inside shale rock formations. Plays are drilled for natural gas by hydraulic fracturing in a two step process. First, a production well is drilled down into the ground for thousands of feet and then gradually leveled so that the tip of the drill is travelling horizontally through the ground. The second part of the process is where it gets the name of “fracking” because the second step in the process is where a mixture of sand, water, and chemicals, many of which are known to be harmful, are forced under extremely high pressure down into the shale through the horizontal part of the drill. The tremendous pressure created causes the shale rock to break or fracture releasing the natural gas. The added chemicals help reduce problems such as a buildup of bacteria and mineral deposits (OSU). Fracking is a very water intensive process and uses up to four million gallons of fresh water for each well, and with about thirty-five thousand wells in the United States, fracking consumes the same amount of water as five million people (Schmidt). Most of the water used remains trapped down in the rocks where the natural gas previously was, but about thirty to seventy percent of the water resurfaces as what is called “flowback”. Flowback water is full of minerals, salts, and often times some radioactive materials.
The flowback water is stored in temporary lagoons or lakes until it is transported to facilities that treat the water or facilities that have permits to inject into deep “Class II wells” or dump into rivers, streams, and lakes along with other wastewater from other sources (OSU). Most of the facilities that are used to treat the flowback water before they are put back into water systems as treated water are not equipped to treat all the contaminants of flowback water. In all the research...

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