Fracking is hydraulic fracturing, a process which has become quite popular in the past few years. Fracking is done by injecting water, chemicals and sand into the ground with shale in order to obtain oil and natural gas. As the use of fracking has grown as has the concerns surrounding the process. There are concerns regarding contributions to global warming, groundwater contamination and earthquakes.
When it comes to global warming, a recent study in the journal Climatic Change determined that fracking released considerably more methane than typical gas extraction techniques. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, twenty times more warming than carbon dioxide. The scientists found that a third or more methane is released in fracking than in typical gas extraction.
Environmental groups in the United States, along with residents in many cities and towns, have grown concerned regarding potential groundwater contamination. The state of Pennsylvania has been especially at the forefront when it comes to fracking polluting drinking water. Public backlash when it comes to groundwater pollution has caused some states to avoid fracking altogether.
In addition to the above concerns, studies relating earthquakes to the fracking process have alarmed residents of numerous countries and have led to bans on the process. The United States has confirmed earthquakes triggered by fracking in at least two states recently, Oklahoma and Ohio. Whether fracking can cause strong, disastrous earthquakes is not yet known. However, countries such as France and Bulgaria are not taking the chance.
After considerable pressure was put on the government of France in 2011 by environmental groups, the country decided to ban fracking in the country. Now amidst considerable pressure from environmentalists and protestors, Bulgaria has banned fracking as well. Concerns have been raised regarding potential water pollution and earthquakes triggered by the process in the country.
The United Kingdom has faced considerable pressure on banning the fracking process as well. Earthquakes have been linked to the process in the UK, causing some projects to be canceled and exploratory fracking to be halted in a number of locations. However, fracking is unlikely to be banned in the UK as the government recently released a report which pointed to the need for increased fracking rules that will enable the process to continue to be used rather than eliminating the process altogether.
Cambridge University professor Robert Mair worked on the UK report and stated: “Our main conclusions are that the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing for shale can be safely managed provided there is best practice observed and provided it’s enforced through strong regulation.”
The report indicated limited concerns with water contamination if the process is done accurately. Proper regulations require fracking to be done well below the water line according to the report and should not be problematic. Earthquake concerns were also limited according to the report, especially large and potentially detrimental ones.
Among the rules needed to be incorporated according to the report was the need for independent examinations of wells to be done without notice. In addition, monitoring of the release of methane in both water and air would need to be conducted all stages of the process: prior to beginning, while fracking and after the process is complete.