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Hydraulic fracturing procedure used in shale gas extraction

Ten Fracking Things Everyone Should Know

By —— Bio and Archives--April 21, 2011

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As dull headlines go it’s on a par with the (almost certainly apocryphal) classic “Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead”.  But “Hundreds rally against fracking” – the hydraulic fracturing procedure used in shale gas extraction – must be up there with the dullest.

Hundreds? Only hundreds? I can remember a time when just whispering the world’s most powerful epithet “Big Oil” would have had eco-warriors everywhere reaching for their scaling ladders and megaphones. After all, even “progressives” need to keep up empty traditions.
Okay, the headline was only at a Time Warner online news site, so no one actually read it. I only picked up via a Google Alert. But the report did reveal just what got ‘hundreds’ out of their pits; even though quite a few seemed a little confused as to why they were protesting outside the Capitol building in Albany, New York State. One banner, the article reported, stated, “In NY state, no more drilling for fossil fuels”. Another: “We want New York to lead the change”. Some plainly thought it an anti-fossil fuel march, not a march against a particular method of extraction: hydraulic fracking. Another proclaimed, “You can’t drink gas”. Pithy. Accurate. I like it.

The rather pathetically-attended Albany protest was even thought newsworthy north of the border. One Canadian paper ran the anti-fracking story headlining it, “Natural gas carries unexamined risks”. So does getting out of bed in the morning - but let’s stay focused. Sadly, the article’s impact was somewhat diluted by a photo of a banner-waving biologist placarding the message: “Water Is Life Is Water”. Albeit not an English major, we can applaud the sentiment – it’s always good to hear science confirm the suspicions of generations of the common layman. 

So just where were the expected hordes of treehuggers and concerned citizenry in Albany? Isn’t the very water supply that we all share – including ‘fracker’ families, by the way – under threat?  What has happened to the commitment of modern apocalyptic alarmists that they aren’t able to bus in, on fossil-free vehicles presumably, legions of apocalypse-sometime-soon green street protestors?

Here’s a fact that can be banked. The anti-fracking movement is the trendy new cause célèbre. Unfortunately, not many of those involved appear to have the slightest idea how long it’s been used as a mining extraction process and that it has an incredibly safe antecedent history record. That is not to say that accidents don’t happen or haven’t taken place. It’s the nature of the technological advancement beast that accidents – even negligence – will occur. Nor does it that infer some companies don’t occasionally need their butt kicked to comply with regulatory oversight, such as cleaning up tail ponds, et al.

Essentially, however, the whole anti-fracking movement has its head where the sun doesn’t shine – and here are just ten reasons why.

  1. Hydraulic fracking has been around for 60 years.  Developments made by U.S. engineers around 2008-9 have simply made the process much more commercially viable.
  2. Since fracking was introduced in 1949, over 2 million frack treatments have been pumped without a single documented case of treatments polluting a water aquifer.
  3. 90 percent of all gas wells drilled in the United States since 1949 have been fracked. 
  4. The depth of most shale gas deposits drilled is between 6,000 and 10,000 feet – water aquifers exist at an average depth of 500 feet. 
  5. Claims of ‘migration’ between the shale gas layers and water aquifers due to fracking or for any other reason, are patently absurd as the gas would have to pass through millions of tons of impermeable rock. If the rock was that porous, neither the water nor the gas would have been there in the first place. (As the hard data in fig. 1 from a study of 15,000 frac treatments in the Barnett Shale Field reveals plainly.)
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  7. Fracture design engineers go to great lengths to avoid fracture growth of even 100 feet to prevent losing production.
  8. The new eco-horror genre flicks like Josh Fox’s Gasland, create impact by making outrageous claims which include suggesting “569 chemicals” are used in a single “toxic cocktail” frack treatment.  The reality is that 99.5 percent of the treatment is water and sand. Much of the remainder is made up of a maximum of 12 or so harmless gelling agents, like Guar gum (used in ice cream making), and chemicals commonly used around the house.
  9. Domestic running water faucets being set alight with a match might wow gullible film audiences, but dissolved methane found in well water may well be biogenic (naturally occurring). As the largest component in natural gas, methane is not even regulated as it is not toxic and escapes naturally like soda bubbles.
  10. Hydraulic fracking procedures are heavily regulated and not, as often claimed by eco-activists, exempt from drinking water and other key regulatory laws.
  11. Concerns about using “excessive water resources” in the process are already being assuaged by new developments, including recycling water. And the U.S. Ground Water Protection Council confirms that drilling with compressed air is becoming increasingly common.


As Montaigne said three hundred years ago, “Nothing is so firmly believed as that which is least well known”. After well over a decade of flat-lining global temperatures, it’s not surprising that greenist activists are tapping into new emotive areas to rally the troops to their simplistic eco-paradigm.

“Save Our Water” clearly offers an anti-toxic sound-bite tonic – albeit one based on fracking ignorance.

Peter C. Glover -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Peter C. Glover is an English writer & freelance journalist specializing in political, media and energy analysis (and is currently European Associate Editor for the US magazine Energy Tribune. He has been published extensively and is also the author of a number of books including The Politics of Faith: Essays on the Morality of Key Current Affairs which set out the moral case for the invasion of Iraq and a Judeo-Christian defence of the death penalty.

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