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Diagram of fracking for shale gas

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is forcing fractures in a rock layer, by fluid that is put under pressure. It can happen naturally, but it is now used to force oil and natural gas from shale.[1][2]

Some hydraulic fractures form naturally: certain dykes are examples. This lets gas and petroleum from source rocks get to reservoir rocks.

The first use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947. The modern fracturing technique, called 'horizontal slickwater fracturing', was first used in 1998.[1][2] It made the extraction of shale gas economical. The energy from the injection of a highly pressurized fluid creates new channels in the rock, which increases the extraction rates and recovery of hydrocarbons. In 2010 it was estimated that 60% of all new oil and gas wells worldwide were being hydraulically fractured.[3] As of 2012, 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed on oil and gas wells worldwide, more than one million of them in the United States.[4]

Proponents of hydraulic fracturing point to the economic benefits from the vast amounts of previously out of reach hydrocarbons.[5] Opponents point to potential environmental effects, such as contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flowback and the health effects of these.[6] For these reasons hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny, with some countries suspending or banning it.[7]

However, some of those countries, including most notably the United Kingdom,[8] have recently lifted their bans. Now they have regulations instead of outright prohibition. It turns out that the UK has huge gas reserves if fracking is used.[9]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Charlez, Philippe A. 1997. Rock mechanics: petroleum applications. Paris: Editions Technip, p. 239
  2. 2.0 2.1 Trembath A. 2012. US Government role in shale gas fracking history: an overview and response to our critics. [1]
  3. Montgomery, Carl T. & Smith, Michael B. 2010. Hydraulic fracturing. History of an enduring technology (PDF). JPT Online (Society of Petroleum Engineers): 26–41. Retrieved 13 May 2012. [2]
  4. King, George E. 2012. Hydraulic fracturing 101, Society of Petroleum Engineers Paper 152596.
  5. Golden rules for a golden age of energy. International Energy Agency. [3]
  6. Brown, Valerie J. 2007. Industry issues: putting the heat on gas. Environmental Health Perspectives. 115 (2): A76. [4]
  7. France to keep fracking ban to protect environment, Sarkozy says. BloombergBusiness. [5]
  8. Bakewell, Sally 2012. U.K. Government lifts ban on shale gas fracking. Bloomberg News. Retrieved 26 March 2013. [6]
  9. Moylan J. 2013. UK has huge shale gas resources, energy firm says. BBC News Business. [7]