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What is hydraulic Fracturing or Frackicng?

Since the industrial revolution, ou energy consumption has risen unceasingly. The majority of this energy
consumption is supplied by fossil fuels like coal, or natural gas. Recently there’s been a lot of talk about
the controversial method of extracting natural gas, Hydraulic fracturing or Fracking. Put simply, fracking
describes the recovery of natural gas from deep layers inside the earth. In this method, porous rock is
fractured by the use of water sand and chemicals in order to release the enclosed natural gas. The
technique of fracking has been known since the 1940s. Nonetheless, only in the last 10 years has there
been quite a fracking boom especially in the USA. This is because most conventional natural gas sources
in America and the European continent have been exhausted. Thus, prices for natural gas and other
fuels are rising steadily. Significantly, more complicated and expensive methods like fracking have now
become attractive and profitable. In the mean time, fracking has already been used more than a million
times in the USA alone. Over 60% of all new oil and gas wells are drilled by using fracking. Now, lets take
a look on how fracking actually works. First a shaft is drilled several hundred meters into the earth. From
there a horizontal hole is drilled into the gas bearing layer of rock. Next, the fracking fluid is pumped into
the ground using high performance pumps. On average the fluid consist of 8 million liters of water which
amounts to about the daily consumption of 65,000 people plus several thousands of sand, and about
200,000 liters of chemicals. The mixture penetrates into the rock layer and produces enumerable tiny
cracks. The sand prevents the cracks from closing again. The chemicals perform various tasks. Among
other things they compress the water, kill off bacteria, and dissolve minerals. Next, the majority of the
fracking fluid is pumped out again. And now, the natural gas can be recovered. As soon as is exhausted
the gas source is exhausted the drill hole is sealed. As a rule, the fracking fluid is pumped back into deep
underground layers and sealed in there. However, fracking is also associated with several considerable
risks. The primary risk consists in the contamination of drinking water sources. Fracking not only
consumes large amounts of freshwater but in addition water is contaminated and is highly toxic. The
contamination is so severe that the water cannot even be cleaned in a treatment plant. Eventhough the
danger is known and theoretically could be managed, in the USA sources is already contaminated due to
negligence. No one yet knows how the enclosed water will behave in the future since there have not
been yet any long term studies on the subject. The chemicals used in fracking vary from hazardous to
extremely toxic and carcinogenic such as benzole or formic acid. The companies using fracking say
nothing about the precise composition of the chemical mixture. But it is known that there are about 700
different chemical agents which can be used in the process. Another risk is the release of greenhouse
gases. The natural gas recovered by fracking consist largely of methane, a greenhouse gas which is 25
times more potent than carbon dioxide. Natural gas is less harmful than coal when burned. But
nonetheless the negative effects of fracking on climate balance are overall greater. Firstly, the fracking
process requires a very large consumption of energy. Secondly, the drill holes are quickly exhausted and
are necessary to drill fracking holes much more frequently than for classical natural gas wells. In
addition, about 3% of the recovered gas is recovered gas escapes into the atmosphere. So how is
fracking and its expected benefits to be assessed when the advantages are balanced against the
disadvantages. When properly employed, this technique offers one way in the short to medium term to
meet our demand for lower cost energy. But the long term consequences of fracking are unforeseeable
and the risk to our drinking waters should not be underestimated.