Hydraulic fracturing. The natural gas collected through this process, more commonly known as fracking, is the supposed energy source of the future that’s going to wean the United States off of it’s foreign oil addiction. As Obama said in his 2013 State of the Union address, “We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.” But what exactly is fracking?
Let’s start at the beginning. The process of hydraulic fracturing was invented in 1947, but it didn’t see large-scale commercial success until George Mitchell, also known as the “father of fracking,” implemented it within his company Barnett Shale. The process itself is when fluids are shot down oil or gas wells at very high pressure, causing the layers of geologic formations to crack, or “fracture,” allowing more oil and gas to pour into the well(Water 1). The fluids used are normally 90% water, 9.5% sand, and 0.5% chemicals(Water 1), although companies don’t release the exact ingredients for fear of competitors stealing their formula. In the past several years, almost all Colorado oil and gas wells have been hydraulically fractured(Water 1). So what’s the big deal?
If you were to ask an Xcel Energy representative, they’d say there isn’t one. They might describe how hydraulic fracturing has been employed since the 1970’s to increase Colorado’s oil and gas production(Water 1), or that in 2004 the EPA concluded that fracking posed little to no risk of groundwater contamination(Hydraulic 1). Several energy company executives and even the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, have gone so far as to drink fracking fluid in order to prove how benign it really is.
However, ask someone from the town of Boulder and you might get a different answer. Boulder, along with Fort Collins and Lafayette, joined Longmont as the second, third, and fourth cities that voted to ban fracking in Colorado(Wolfgang 1). These votes have taken place after an array of detrimental side-effects have accompanied the increased presence of fracking here, ranging from contaminated groundwater to an increase in earthquakes. But with the energy companies still claiming it as an effective energy source, it’s hard to know what to believe.
Just look at a recent gas blowout in Clark, Wyoming. Over the course of 58 hours, 5-7 million cubic feet of methane was released, and groundwater aquifers closer to the surface were contaminated(Blowout). Windsor Energy, the local energy company that operates in this area, usually contracts their work out to independent contractors(Blowout). Nabors Drilling was the contractor working at the site when the spill occurred, and Windsor chief operating officer Jeff Dahlberg says that their work at other well sites in Wyoming have been a “disaster.(Blowout)” A Clark resident, Mary Baredda, said, “the use of numerous contractors without strong oversight invited shoddy work.”(Blowout) I have to agree with Mary- the...