What is Fracking?
Also called Hydraulic Fracturing, ‘Fracking’ for short, a process were millions of gallons of water and chemicals are blasted 2,500 metres into the ground producing a mini earthquake. Intense pressure breaks apart the rock and frees up the unconventional natural gas, known as Shale gas. Horizontal drilling is frequently used with shale gas wells. First you drill down vertically from the surface, perhaps about 2,000m, to reach the shale layer. Then the drilling direction is changed by up to 90 degrees and proceeds horizontally for another 2,000m. This creates maximum borehole surface area in contact with the shale.
What is Shale Gas?
Shale is a common fine-grained sedimentary rock that can harbour gas. When organic matter in the shale is broken down at high temperatures, methane is produced. This methane has a rather low permeability (the ability to allow fluids to pass through it), so requires fractures produced by large drills to make it permeable. With modern technology in Hydraulic Fracturing, extensive artificial fractures can be produced easily for the extraction of shale gas for conventional use. With the use of horizontal drilling, this creates maximum borehole surface area in contact with the shale.
What is pumped into these wells?
1 – 7 million gallons of water along with with 15,000 – 60,000 gallons of chemicals:
(Thiocyanomethylthio) benzothiazole (TCMTB), Ethylbenzene, corrosion inhibitors, gellants, drilling additives, biocides, shale control inhibitors, liquid breaker aid, viscosifiers and liquid gel concentrates. Glycol Ethers are used in initial hydraulic fracturing, used for the entire life of the well. It is a liquid chemical component of plastic and is used as an anti-freeze. Tamboran promises not to use chemical additives in any fracking in Ireland.
The process of extraction
Part 1: Drill rigs (3-4 weeks, 2,500m deep) – 1,500 truck trips for materials and water
Part 2: The pits – Flowback pit (‘produced’ water i.e water that had been blasted into the well and returned) – a lot seeps back into the land.
Part 3: Evapouration sprayers in flowback pits – fracking chemicals evapourated into air.
Part 4: Venting – Separator for wet gas – heats it up to 212ᵒC, boils of the water, the betex chemicals, benzene, toluene, xylene etc. All are evaporated on site. The gas is pumped through a pipeline to go through further stages of refining.
Part 5: Condensate tanks – Produced water – low grade jet fuel – steams off organics straight into the atmosphere 24 hours a day.
Is much of the methane lost to the atmosphere during the extraction process?
More than you can imagine. This initial water return is accompanied by a significant “belch” of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The water that has returned, known as ‘produced’ water is kept in storage ponds or pits where a lot of the chemicals are allowed to evaporate off. If the pits are not properly lined, there is risk of this contaminated water leaking into the land.
How did oil companies in the States get away with Fracking with little to no regulations?
In 2005, the Energy Bill pushed through congress by Dick Cheney which exempted Oil and Gas industries from Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
Between 1995 and 2000, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton and the push for this 2005 Energy Bill became the largest, most expensive domestic gas drilling campaign in history covering 34 states.
1 He formed the Energy Task Force
2 Met 40 times with industry leaders of energy groups and once with an environmental group
3 $100,000,000 lobbying effort to insert the Halliburton loophole into the Safe Watering Drinking Act:
– Authorises Oil and Gas workers exclusively to inject unknown hazardous materials unchecked directly connected to or adjacent to underwater drinking supplies
This bill was passed as part of Bush’s administration Energy Policy Act, 2005.
How does Obama feel about Fracking?
US President Obama’s administration has sometimes promoted shale gas, in part because of their belief that it releases fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than other fossil fuels, but some scientists have urged caution. Even though he still supports Fracking he has appointed a panel of experts to find ways to make hydraulic fracturing, a fast-growing method of extracting natural gas, safer and cleaner.
What are the side effects of water contamination from fracking fluids?
- Flammable water and risk of exploding water tanks.
- Effects on humans are: dizziness, headaches, testicular toxicity, malformation of the embryo, bone marrow depression and hemolysis, ringing in hears, disorientation, loss of consciencous, pains all over the body- peripheral neuropathy, irreversible brain damage, lesions in the brain, swelling. The loss of smell and taste by hydrogen sulphide exposure
- Destruction of land, dead/sick animals.