Much of the reporting on fracking is a confused mess, which must leave many people wondering exactly what’s going on. One day there’s a news story or newly released study implying that fracking is causing earthquakes or groundwater contamination; the next day there’s a different study or story asserting there is no clear connection.
No wonder last March the Gallup Polling Co. found that an equal number, 40%, supported and opposed fracking. One problem is that people and especially reporters, frequently confuse fracking with waste-water injection.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has been around for decades. It’s a process whereby water, mixed largely with sand and a small amount of chemicals, is forced into shale rock located miles underground.
The mixture breaks up the shale and allows the trapped oil and natural gas to be extracted. Drillers then recapture that waste-water mixture and dispose of it deep in the ground, sometimes in a previously existing well, known as waste-water injection wells.
Whenever an earthquake happens, the public and the media immediately want to blame fracking. But there is no evidence that fracking causes earthquakes. During a spate of relatively minor earthquakes in Irving, Texas, just northwest of Dallas, last winter, the media and public immediately assumed fracking was to blame except there was no active fracking close by.
Moreover, geologists pointed out that fracking usually occurs at depths of 6,000 to 10,000 feet while seismology tests conducted by federal agencies indicated the earthquakes appeared to be coming from about 18,000 feet deep or deeper.
Geologists pointed out that Dallas sits atop an ancient mountain range, and the earthquakes are most likely the result of that fault line that runs through part of Texas and Oklahoma.
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