Hydraulic Fracturing Defined Fracking Words Matter Debate on Energy, Environmental, Humans

The word fracking – First, I personally and professionally dislike the word for a number of reasons. First it is jargon and second it is industry slang.  The word lends itself to redefinition and misuse.

Definitions – We are defining slang terms?

1) frack·ing, noun \ˈfra-kiŋ\ the injection of fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources (such as oil or natural gas)  (Source: http://grist.org/news/the-dictionary-finally-admits-fracking-is-here-to-stay/)

My comments – not a bad definition – but the process is called hydraulic fracturing – they miss the issue of the use of chemicals to change the characteristics of water to reduce friction loss and prevent bacterial growth.  Also – there  is no Freeing up of a resource – the process creates an artificial pathway that causes the fuel to escape through the pipe or borehole rather than taking millions of years to migrate up through the rock strata.  Also – does not indicate that the process is regulate under the EPA UIC Program under special cases.

2) Fracking is the process by which the oil and gas industry undermines the public right to safe drinking water, clean air and healthy communities by using toxic chemicals and large volumes of water to extract unsustainable fossil fuels from the earth for profit.(Source: Food & Water Watch – http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/fracking-shows-its-viral-nature)

This is a great example of the lack of fact, but more about environmental spin doctors.  Now – this is not only an approach used by certain organizations.  Definition is more about a philsophical point than an actual definition that explains the process, but presents the potential things could happen.  The only part that is correct is “toxic chemicals are used”, “large volumes of water are used (but more is used to produce other sources of electricity), “extract fossil fuels”, “fossil fuels are not infinitely sustainable (but neither is any building or structure we build or even our cities), it does happen on earth, and it is done for a profit.  (Profit is not bad – non-profit organizations make a profit – they do not call it profit and this is a Capitalist society).   This definition tells you more about the Organization than the process.

3) Fracking – A slang term for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted. (Source: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fracking.asp)
Misses the mark related to the nature of the chemicals that are used and the use of a propent to hold the fractures open so the gas and oil can migrate out of the formation into the borehole or pipeline, i.e., the artificial low pressure point, and not up through thousands of feet of rock.  I do like they indicate it is a slang term and the proper term is hydraulic fracturing.  It is a procedure – it is part of a process – NOT the whole process.

4) Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.The process is carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer. The process can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels. (Source; http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14432401)

It is a process Yes – no mention of the slang nature of the work and the correct term – hydraulic fracturing.  It is NOT a Drilling Process – this is JUST Wrong.  Yes – Water, sand and chemicals are injected.  Chemicals are toxic    The sentence starting – “the process …..”  Is Just Wrong !

5) Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration. In fact, three dimensional imaging helps scientists determine the precise locations for drilling. (Source: http://www.what-is-fracking.com/)

No mention it is a slang term- statement is true, but does it create a definition?  I do like the mention of the word recent.  Because it is the recent improvements in the process that makes this feasible.

6) Hydraulic Fracturing – a method of mining in which cracks are created in a type of rock called shale in order to obtain gas, oil, or other substances that are inside it (Source: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/fracking)

Used the correct work – definition is clearly wrong.  The definition makes it sound like the old water mining techniques that were used in the 1800s to mine for gold by eroding mountains with high pressure water.

7)  fracking, fracking also spelled fracing or fraccing, also called hydrofracking, in full hydraulic fracturing,  in natural gas and petroleum production, the injection of a fluid at high pressure into an underground rock formation in order to open fissures and allow trapped gas or crude oil to flow through a pipe to a wellhead at the surface. Employed in combination with improved techniques for drilling horizontally through selected rock layers, hydraulic fracturing has opened up vast natural gas deposits in the United States. At the same time, the rapid rise of the practice, frequently in regions with no history of intensive oil and gas drilling, has raised concerns over its economic and environmental consequences.

Not a bad definition – lacks clarity on the nature of the fluid, but then goes on to add the “positive spin” of the Industry.  I do like the closing sentence – “The Rapid Rise” of the practice in areas with “no historic knowledge of the process” has created concerns that are economic and environmental.

If you are going to allow a definition to present a point – then – it would be appropriate to add to this “definition” at the end. These same individuals or communities did not care or were not concerned when these activities that produced fossil fuels for their consumption occurred in other communities or countries and these same communities were happy to develop in a manner that made them dependent on other communities to sustain themselves, i.e., NIMBY.

8. hydraulic fracturing – Also referred to as hydrofracking, hydrofracturing, and fracking, is a well development process that involves injecting water under high pressure into a bedrock formation via the well. This is intended to increase the size and extent of existing bedrock fractures.  (Thanks USGS- http://energy.usgs.gov/GeneralInfo/HelpfulResources/EnergyGlossary.aspx#h)

Not a great definition and the second sentence is misleading.

I do not like the term.  This term was the slang word used in the Batttlestar Galatica series as the “F” word – “Frac”.  This series was about an epic battle between man and machine.  NOW – it possible to view this change in energy production as a battle between big oil and humans- this is not the battle.  The battle is with us – We are the users, consumers, and wasters of this valuable resource that has been developed on this Earth over millions of years.  It is not renewable, but a high energy source that has powered the improvement of our health, safety, and welfare.  As our technology grows – we will develop new and more “renewable energy sources”, but we have to do our part to conserve energy and use it wisely.

My definition

1. Use the word – hydraulic fracturing and is one phase of an overall process.  The phases include drilling, installing protective casing, cementing, hydraulic fracturing, developing, and production.

2. Process that uses a slick water solution – This chemical solution is dangerous to handle and not suitable for consumption or direct contact without proper training and personal protective equipment.  The chemical solution is made up of 99.5 % water  that has been modified through the use of chemicals and other agents that prevent bacterial growth (i.e., biocide), dissolve carbonate scales (acids- HCL and citric acid), friction reduces (change the density of water – can be toxic- mineral oil, polyacrylamide (used in agriculture and soil stabilization potential health issue), corrosion inhibitors (n,n-dimethylformamide,  glycols (toxic)), surfactants (soaps/isopropanal),  gelling agents (gums/cellulose), crosslinkers (borate salts), breakers (ammonia persulfate), salts (KCL)  and propant (sand /ceramics)- Nice Image and Other Pdf.

An aside: The issue is not the chemicals used – but the potential for exposure – the primary exposure potential would be related to chemicals and releases in the environment during transport or surface storage and use.  The main defense would be controlling the movement of the chemicals into and through the community and the use of multiple containment systems for surface storage.  When the target formation is 3000 + feet below grade, the vertical migration of the fluid up to freshwater zones has an extremely low probability of occurrence.  Is it zero – NO, but the other pathways are more likely.

3. The fluid is injected under high pressure to overcome the weight of the material over the target formation.  Since the target formation is a shale, the shale has natural bedding plane fractures (looks like a book from the side), near vertical stress fractures, and curvilinear fractures associated with internal gas stress.  These fractures are not interconnected.  The hydraulic process aids in the parting of existing fractures, removing carbonate scales or coatings along bedding planes/fractures, and parting the formation enough to push sand or other proppant into this location to hold the fractures apart.  This stabilized pathway permits the gas and/or oil to escape at the lowest point of pressure, i.e., the casing and borehole that were constructed during the drilling phase.

This is a work in progress.  We would suggest viewing the following websites:

Private Well Owners Guide – http://www.private-well-owner.org
Links to presentations on water quality issues, movies/videos on well drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and gas production.   Movies and information about problems- Methane gas migration, loose of circulation, chemical changes, spills, and the need for changes in oil and gas law.


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