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Running Head: FRACKING IN THE US: US HYDRAULIC FRACTURING

Fracking in the US: US Hydraulic Fracturing


Rachel J. Barton
Salt Lake Community College

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Abstract
Natural resources for energy are being consumed faster than they are recovered and
refined. This makes the possibility of running out a reality. Over the past few decades there has
been a race to find alternatives to crude oil and coal energy sources. Technological advances
have been made in wind, solar and water energy. However these sources can fall short of being
practical for the energy needs in the 21st century.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking is a relatively new technology. Fracking
research began in the 1980s but it was not until 2000 that Mitchell Energy and Development
Corporation were able to produce economical amounts of natural gas from their hydraulic
fracturing method.
This research paper will cover the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the United States, its
history, why its being done, where (including Utah), along with the expressed concerns on
impacts fracking may cause. The aim is to provide an unbiased look into the process of
hydraulic fracturing.

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Hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting oil and natural gas from deep within the
earths rock and shell (a mile deep or more) using a pressure mixture of water, sand and
additives. It is done by drilling a well diagonally more than a mile deep and then horizontally for
a few thousand feet. A mixture of water (90 percent); sand (9.5 percent) to keep fractures open
and additives (0.5 percent) (used to reduce friction) are pumped into the wells with high
pressure to create micro- fractures in the rock. This in turn releases the trapped fossil fuels that
conventional drilling cannot extract (What is Fracking, 2015).
Sedimentary rocks are
formed from layers of mud and clay and
also may contain dense resources of petroleum
and natural gas. It was estimated by the
US Energy Information Administration
(EIA) (2015) that there is roughly
1,679.3

trillion cubic feet of technically


recoverable resources of dry natural
gas in the lower 48 states of the US
(p. 3). In comparison the EIA (2015) also estimates
that there is 169.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable crude
Fig.1. The process. Frac Focus (2010).

oil resources in the lower 48 states

(p. 2). This means crude oil is becoming more and more a scarce resource.
Fracking provides a means to tap the oil and natural gas deposits found in shale and other
forms of sediment that otherwise would not be accessible (What is Fracking, 2015). Fracking

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also provides a way to keep crude oil wells and the companies operating when the crude oil
supply has run dry (Frac Focus, 2015).
Over the past decade, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing
has provided access to large volumes of oil and natural gas that were previously
uneconomic to produce from low permeability geological formations composed of shale,
sandstone, and carbonate (e.g., limestone) (EIA, 2015).
Hydraulic fracturing experiments began in 1980 by Mitchell Energy and Development
Corporation in the North-central Texas area known as the Barnett Shale formation. By the year
2000 Mitchel Energy developed the fracking technique that would produce profitable
commercial volumes of natural gas (EIA, 2015).
Not far behind other companies began fracking in the same Barnett Shale formation. By
2005 the formation was producing roughly half a trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.
These practices were proving efficient and soon after companies were seeking other shale
formations. These included; the Fayetteville Shale in Northern Arkansas, [the] Haynesville in
Eastern Texas and north Louisiana, the Woodford in Oklahoma, the Eagle Ford in Southern
Texas, and the Marcellus and Utica shales in Northern Appalachia. (EIA, 2015)

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Currently 22 of the
lower 48 states are in the
Fig. 2. Hirji, Z., & Song, L. (2015)

hydraulic fracturing
business. Utah included. A
map from Inside Climate
News (winner of the Pulitzer

Prize)

shows active sites, potentially


soon to be active, and states that
have banned hydraulic
fracturing (2015).
Some concerns of the process of fracking and the impacts include; the amount of water

fracking uses, air pollution, environmental and economic impacts, as well as potential seismic
activity increases. According to the EIA (2015) they estimate 70 to 140 billion gallons of water is
used to fracture in the United States each year (p.19). This equals the consumption of water by
40 to 80 cities each with a population of 50,000 (Earth Works, 2015). This also raises concerns
for ecological impacts as well as aquifer reserves.
Other concerns include the chemicals used for fracking and the impact on the
environment as well as the communities located near the well sites. According to the
Environmental Protection Agency EPAs Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan (p. 55); if not
disposed of properly the chemicals may cause contamination to the surrounding environment.
Air quality from natural gas blow back and emissions from the traffic also pose an air quality
concern (2015).

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According to the EPA (2015), there are positive economic impacts for jobs but duration
of mine lifespans were not determined (p. 57). Also the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (2012) covers concerns of occupational safety stating; The oil and gas
extraction industry has an annual occupational fatality rate of 27.5 per 100,000 workers (20032009) - more than seven [7] times higher than the rate for all U.S. workers.
Closer to home in Utahs Uinta Basin an article in the Deseret News stated there are
15,000 oil, gas and injection wells with many of them producing from already established sites
called infill wells. In addition another 1,000 wells are brought to production each year. In their
article Governor Gary Herbert addressed concerns over environmental impacts by stating that the
federal government contracts are a lengthy process and most of the operating sites are on federal
and or private property (2015). Utahs 10 year energy plan includes hydraulic fracturing and the
energy boom is in need of new sources of energy. Governor Herbert said;
"It is not just an economic benefit that comes with high paying good jobs particularly in
rural parts of our country as is the case in Utah, but it is also a national security issue," he
said "We have contention and tension around the world because of the demand for
energy" (Deseret News, 2014).
In a video from Uinta Basin (Utal-Oil.com) Mike McKee a County Commissioner since
1991 stated; In the Uintah County and the Uinta Basin, the amount of energy that is located here
is not well known. In fact, the nation doesnt know it. Im not even sure the state fully
appreciates it. He goes on to say there is approximately 111 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in
the Uinta Basin. McKee also states that 50% of the jobs in Uintah County and the Uinta Basin
are oil and gas related, and 60% of our economy is tied to the extractive industry (2015).

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Some concerns are unavoidable. Any type of mining leaves scars in the landscape. Mike
Stiewig the Field manager in Vernals Green River District for the BLM disclosed that the BLM
is a multiple-use public lands agency that has to think about all the public. His concerns are
that the oil and gas industry comes and if unsuccessful, goes leaving the remains and impacts of
mining behind (Uinta Basin, 2015).
Scaring of landscapes, as well as the potential contamination risks using the fluids and
the emissions produced in the process of transporting materials is the result of any mining
operation not excluding fracking. The environment could be impacted with waste waters and
because of the volume of water needed for the hydraulic fracturing process, areas in drought
could have less water resources.
There are many points and views on the use or banning of fracking and mining in
general. Some of the reasons explored for fracking included; jump start the extraction of energy
from wells that have run dry from crude oil production, aid in the energy boom while other
resources run out, and technological advances fall behind, fields that were once thought to be dry
could operate again and provide jobs to help the economies in their surrounding communities.
With a large estimated volume in the United States, production from fracking might relieve the
US from its dependency of foreign oils.
The sources from this research include government agencies such as the EPA and EIA
along with County Commissioners, BLM managers, and educationally accredited researchers.
Also included is the registrar Frac Focus for the US oil industry.

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References
Collier, M. (2014). Website/ Video. Unita Basin an unconventional future. Retrieved October 9,
2015 from: http://utah-oil.com/
Earth Works. (n.d.). Website. Hydraulic fracturing 101. Washington, D.C. Retrieved October 9,
2015 from:
https://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.VhgUVGdzN
ev
Frac Focus. (July 20, 2010). Web Image. Hydraulic fracturing: The process.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Retrieved October 6, 2015 from:
http://www.fracfocus.org/hydraulic-fracturing-how-it-works/hydraulic-fracturing-process
Hirji, Z., & Song, L. (2015, January 20). Web Map. The fracking boom, state by state. Inside
Climate News. Retrieved October 8, 2015, from:
http://insideclimatenews.org /news/ 20150120/map-fracking-boom-state-state
What Is Fracking. (2015). Website. Introduction - What is hydraulic fracturing? Retrieved
October 4, 2015 from: http://www.what-is-fracking.com/what-is-hydraulic-fracturing/
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2012, December 13).Website. Oil and gas
extraction. CDC. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved October 8, 2015, from:

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http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/oilgas/risks.html
United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development. (2011,
February 7). PDF online. Draft plan to study the potential Impacts of hydraulic fracturing
on drinking water resources. Washington, D.C. Retrieved October 9, 2015 from:
http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/0/D3483AB445AE61418525775900603E79/
$File/ Draft+Plan+to+Study+the+Potential+Impacts+of+Hydraulic+Fracturing+on+
Drinking+Water+Resources-February+2011.pdf

US Energy Information Administration. (September 16, 2015). PDF online. Oil and gas supply
module: Assumptions to the annual energy outlook 2015. EIA. Washington, DC.
Retrieved October 4, 2015 from:
http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/assumptions/pdf/oilgas.pdf.
US Energy Information Administration. (September, 2015). Website. Shale in the United States.
U.S. Department of Energy. Washington, DC. Retrieved October 8, 2015 from:
http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/article/shale_in_the_united_states.cfm
O'Donoghue, A. (2014, December 3). Website. Herbert: Fracking safe in Utah. Deseret News.
Retrieved October 8, 2015, from:
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865616904/Herbert -Fracking-safe-inUtah.html?pg=all