Hydraulic Fracturing is a hot and highly debated topic. On the plus side it allows extraction of natural gas at a time when we are running out of fossil fuels to power our cars, planes and to heat our homes…. on the negative… do they really know what they’re doing, or the damage thats being caused?
What is Fracking?
This is a method of extracting natural gas via deep drilling, then pumping 1000,000s of gallons of water, chemicals and sand into the well using high pressure. This in turn fractures the rock (usually shale) allowing the natural gases to pass more freely.
Extraction companies are employing this method in order to tap into previously inaccessible deposits, or deposits that were not ‘financially viable’ to drill. It can reduce the need for oil, coal and other more polluting fossils fuels
Sounds good? Whats the problem?
A number of issues have been identified with this method of extraction, including the pollution of ground water, a lack of disclosure surrounding the chemicals used by extraction companies and the geological impact of such a practise.
Fracking has been been linked in recent years to seismic events, flammable tap water and waste chemicals such as Benzene being detected. It has also been linked to issues with water table levels due to the extremely high amounts of water being removed for the pumping process.
In the US a 2005 loophole in the law (termed the Halliburton Loophole) meant the the United States Environmental Protection Agency were prevented from properly controlling, monitoring and regulating this practise. A bill is intended (the FRAC Act) to close this loophole in America.
The EPA are conducting studies but these are not set to be available until 2014!
“EPA is undertaking a national study to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The study will include a review of published literature, analysis of existing data, scenario evaluation and modeling, laboratory studies, and case studies. EPA will release initial study results in a 2012 report and an additional report at the end of 2014.” Source http://www.epa.gov. Jan 2012.
Quaking all Over!
Earthquakes are being reported in areas where there was never any history of seismic instability… In Youngstown Ohio, NINE earthquakes were reported during a 7 month period, all in proximity to a drilled shaft.
A paper published by the Oklahoma Geological Survey in 2011 whilst not definitely, found a strong correlation between fracking activity and a spate of unusual earthquakes in the region.
And fracking firm Cuadrilla Resources admitted to being responsible for a series of earthquakes that hit the North West of England recently.
And what about the chemicals?
Studies have shown that between 20 and 85% of the chemicals pumped into the ground remain there… those that are removed are usually dumped into pits prior to disposal – usually via fleets of trucks to clean up sites. These chemicals are often VOCs (volatiles) that escape into the atmosphere and drift for 100s of miles.
Many of the chemicals that remain in the ground are known to be harmful to humans and wildlife, and many are carconogenic. and include kerosene, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide.
These chemicals can come into contact with humans and wildlife through the air, skin contact and ingestion through water sources and these chemicals are linked to a multitude of health problems including respiratory, gastrointestinal, immune, endocrine, blood and organ problems.
Once in the ground these chemicals leach into waterways, killing fish and wildlife and getting into the food chain.
Holy Flaming Water Batman!
Fracking has also been linked to water so contaminated with it can be set on fire from the tap! Extraction companies and those with an interest in the profits, state this is ‘anecdotal’, however Duke University carried out a study of 68 wells in Pennsylvania and New York state [that lay within 1km of a drilling site] many had methane levels 17 times normal and fell within levels that would require ‘hazard mitigation’ by the Department of the Interior. “In Dimock, Pa., where part of the Duke study was performed, some residents’ water wells exploded, or their water could be lit on fire.”
Future for Fracking in Ireland
Gas extraction companies are beginning to look to Ireland as a new site for gas extraction using fracking methods. Recognising the potential long term damage to the environment and health, Co Clare have moved to ban fracking in their development plan.
This is a move that should be taken coutnrywide unless fracking is PROVEN to be safe – and so far, no extraction company can honestly make that claim.
Fracking is a perfect example of the bottom line being more important than human health or the environment we live in. Safety issues are secondary to making a fast profit and taking shortcuts.
We have to find alternatives to fossil fuels not find more and more reckless ways of obtaining it at any cost.
Find out more…
A free screening of the Oscar nominated documentary
27th January 2012 at 8pm
in the Courthouse Gallery, Ennistymon, Co Clare
This is a brilliantly made film about one man’s personal adventure when he starts to investigate hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ as it is more commonly known. Though his discoveries are shocking, to say the least, he also maintains wit and humour throughout. No one is left the same after watching this film.
The event is being organised by Clare Fracking Concerned and a brief update on the current situation nationally and locally on fracking will be given immediately after the screening.