Hydraulic fracturing, or commonly known as hydrofracking, has become a hot point of contention today in many areas as the US attempts to gain more energy independence from the rest of the world. The method is a well-stimulation technique that uses pressured liquids to fracture rocks. More than half of the world’s hydrofracking operations that had occurred in the last seven decades happened in the US. There are many pros and cons that are associated with it, and they are important to consider while coming up with an opinion on this controversial topic.
List of Pros of Hydrofracking
1. It brings about an efficient form of energy.
Without hydrofracking, it would be difficult to access energy resources that are available in oil shale, tight oil and coal seam gas. By fracturing deep into rock formations where these energy resources are flowing freely, they can be extracted, processed and then used.
2. It provides readily available energy.
The world needs the energy resources mentioned above to maintain a modern lifestyle, and hydrofracking makes their reserves easier to access. Due to the fact that they can be accessed relatively cheaply and quickly, hydrofracking also allows many households to save money on their cooling, heating, and transportation needs over many years.
3. It offers abundant levels of shale rock domestically.
One of the dangers the society faces today is putting their future into someone else’s hands. Over the years, the US has been importing oil to satisfy its needs. However, this has changed thanks to hydrofracking, which helped make energy production domestically viable, decreasing economic reliance on the procedures and policies of other countries.
4. It brings good paying jobs to a place.
Hydrofracking can bring stable employment to a place, as proven by the well-stimulation activities that are occurring in several states, including Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. These job opportunities helped raise the standard of living, boost local businesses and provide wages that are high enough, so families are easily supported for life after years of drilling. In fact, when Pennsylvania adopted hydrofracking, there were 72,000 jobs created between 2009-2011.
5. It accesses the cleanest fuels used on most items utilized today.
Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning fuels currently used by societies around the world. While burning oil or coal has unfavorable impact on the environment, especially if strip mining activities are used, hydrofracking does not produce the same levels of impurities into the atmosphere. It is important to note the amount of carbon that is released from energy extraction.
6. It helps revitalize wells that are known to provide drinking water.
When used appropriately, hydrofracking is safe enough to be able to revitalize wells that are once providing drinking water, but have since gone dry. The only probable problem here is the interests of profitability by involved many organizations; they tend to take shortcuts in order to make extra dollars. Overall the process is safe when safety precautions are used.
List of Cons of Hydrofracking
1. It uses other elements, other than the safe water and sand.
Although hydrofracking mostly use water and sand, there are also other several chemicals used in the well-stimulation process, which then become part of the water that is pumped out, but any exposure of chemicals to the soil can remain in place for some time. Moreover, environmental exposure occurs from runoff lakes, which are left from hydrofracking processes.
2. It may cause contamination in local ground-water supplies.
It is important to note that ground water flows above many deep rock formations containing energy, so it is likely that water is accessed before rocks can be accessed. This means the chemicals produced by hydrofracking can get into ground-water channels and contaminate the area, including pre-existing wells.
3. It can cause earthquakes.
Flow-back and brine within a stimulated well produces pressure that can activate fault lines, which may have not been known about before. In turn, it creates localized earthquakes that may destabilize a place for some time. In fact, hydrofracking has been known to stimulate long dormant faults, which are re-discovered due to the immense pressures introduced into the deep rock formations to crack them.
4. Though it brings well-paying jobs, it also comes with an added level of danger.
A lot of injury cases happen in hydrofracking operations. Wells are operating at high pressures that are at risk of explosion, where metal debris from pipes and connectors can travel at extremely high speeds. The impact is enough to kill a worker if it strikes them in the head. There are even injuries that resulted to permanent disabilities, like burning, limb crushing and even on-the-job amputations.
5. It produces methane.
Methane is burnt off during hydrofracking operations, but not in all cases. What’s worse, it is not just methane that is produced as an environmental hazard, but other pollutants that may cause local and global impacts to the climate.
6. It produces silicon.
Workers who handle the sand during hydrofracking are at risk of breathing in silica particles. Air samples collected from almost a dozen sites show silica concentrations that exceed levels considered to be safe for humans, which means that proper respiratory equipment are required to prevent silicosis.
7. It poses a high risk of an oil spill.
Oil companies involved with hydrofracking reported many cases of oil spills in the past. Although the data cannot be confirmed, it is believed that if unreported spills were documented, the annual amount of spills would be alerting.
8. It requires a lot of money at stake.
Local governments have overlooked shortcuts because it means local dollars are coming in for them. Fines might be assessed as a consequence and even provides more income, but the end result is often extra energy at affordable prices. However, a large fine will not be enough to stop damage to the environment that would have already occurred.
Hydrofracking needs direct and constant oversight. When this is properly observed, the method seems to provide societal and economic benefits. But by doing it the other way around, it can cause harm easily. With so much at stake, including worker health, specific issues should be debated before any hydrofracking operation is allowed to start in a certain region.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.