The history of hydraulic fracturing (AKA fracking, AKA OPEC’s worst nightmare) dates all the way back to 1947. But what is fracking? How does it work? Is it good or bad? (TLDR: fracking is definitely good) Here we’ll answer some of the most basic questions about fracking and also bust some common myths. Ready? Keep scrolling!
Don’t want to read? We feel you, watch this video for a quick introduction to fracking.
Simply put, fracking allows companies to safely produce more oil and natural gas. The process involves injecting water deep into the ground to crack rock, which allows more oil or natural gas to flow. On average, the process only takes about three to five days to complete. Once the well is “completed,” it is ready to produce oil and natural gas for years to come. FUN FACT! Fracking is used is approximately 95% of oil and natural gas wells in the United States.
Over 99 percent of fracking fluid is water and sand. Really, that’s it. The other additives are things you’ll also find under your kitchen sink. One of the most prevalent additives is guar, which is an emulsifying agent that’s also found in ice cream, toothpaste, and numerous other products. Before you panic, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) states that guar is safe, so don’t throw away the ice cream!
NO, NO, AND NO! This rumor started with the anti-fracking film Gasland, which showed a man in Colorado lighting his faucet on fire and blaming fracking. Before the film was released, however, Colorado regulators had investigated the case and determined it had nothing to do with oil and natural gas development. AKA it was FAKE NEWS. In many places, people have been able to light their tap water on fire long before fracking was around, due to naturally occurring methane pockets.
Fracking only accounts for 0.1% of water use across the United States. Other energy sources require far more water, and scientists at the University of Texas have determined that increased natural gas use is actually helping folks use less water as we meet our growing energy needs. Interestingly, when natural gas is burned, it actually releases water vapor.