What is natural gas fracking?
What is shale gas? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) extracts shale gas by injecting millions of gallons of water containing toxic chemicals and sand at very high pressure into a borehole to create multiple fractures in rock formations to allow gas to escape. Several boreholes, ranging from one to two miles deep, are drilled from one well pad and extend horizontally in different directions to access as much shale rock as possible.
Shale gas is found in shale rock formations deep in the earth and is hard to extract. The only difference between natural (conventional) gas and shale (unconventional) gas is their location and ease or difficulty of extraction.
The Marcellus Shale is the second largest shale formation in the United States and is located New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in shale gas production.
Flaring is the controlled burning of natural gas during exploration, production and processing operations. It is also used to release gas during an emergency when equipment or piping becomes over-pressured, and to manage waste gas that can’t be efficiently captured and returned for processing.
The damage to our climate and ecosystems from methane escape that occurs during extraction and flaring eliminates whatever gains the industry claims shale gas has. Shale gas is not part of the climate solution; it’s part of the problem.
Many research groups have identified the gas and oil industry as a significant contributor to environmental pollution and climate change.
According to an article in the April 10, 2018, Journal of the American Medical Association, “…methane leaks from fracked wells, sometimes in high quantities, likely accounting in part for recently observed increases in atmospheric methane.
Atmospheric methane contributes both to ozone formation and to climate change, belying claims that natural gas is an environmentally friendly energy source.”
The Problem With Methane
Natural gas is 70 percent to 90 percent methane. Multiple studies have found that even a very small leakage rate of methane from the production, delivery and, combustion of natural gas can have quite a large climate impact. NASA research found the fossil fuel industry to be the largest source of atmospheric methane.
Since 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than previously recognized. The 2014 IPCC fifth assessment report states methane has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 86 compared to a CO2 value of 1. This means that methane traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over a twenty year period.
There has been a large increase in earthquakes ranging from 1.8 to 5.7 on the Richter scale in areas of Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas where intensive hydraulic drilling is conducted. But hydraulic drilling is not the only cause of fracking-related earthquakes. Contaminated drilling wastewater disposal into deep underground rock beds actually causes more earthquakes than drilling.
Drilling just one gas well requires 3 to 6 million gallons of water, which can result in local water shortages. Finding ways to treat, dispose or recycle the large volume of contaminated wastewater produced by fracked wells poses a significant challenge.
Both fracking fluids and wastewater contain a variety of toxic chemicals and known carcinogens, which can cause serious health problems. Drilling is often done through drinking water aquifers, increasing the risk of contamination.
Fracking can release hazardous substances that occur naturally in the environment, such as arsenic, mercury, and radioactive materials. All of these substances can contaminate underground sources of drinking water.
Many states that allow hydraulic fracturing have weak regulatory requirements. Compounding the problem for residents, gas fracking is exempt from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Hydraulic fracturing often takes place on private properties where water wells are located, which puts residents at risk. Since gas companies are usually not required to publicly disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process, residents have no way of knowing if toxic chemicals might be contaminating their drinking water.
It’s not just people who are harmed by fracking, it’s our ecosystem, environment, and climate. And in harming our climate, it harms us all–no matter where we live.
In my opinion, gas fracking is just not worth causing more damage to our climate, ecosystems, streams and drinking water, and endangering peoples’ lives, health, and property for the sake of a limited number of new jobs and making more plastic.
If you agree, help me to raise awareness by talking to your family, friends, neighbors, and legislators about this issue. There is no excuse for continuing to rely on fossil fuels like fracked gas for our energy needs when we have solar and wind technology.
Yes, this is a call to action. How will you respond?
If you are interested in learning about the problems the Mariner East 2 pipeline presents in our area, read the Dragon Pipe Diary, an excellent blog chronicling the threats residents are facing and how they are taking action.