Saturday, June 16, 2012
Posted by Ankit Chugh on 11:18 AM
Getting to the point, fracking, or to give it it’s proper name, hydraulic fracturing, is the process of drilling down into the earth and setting off a series of small explosions to shatter and make cracks in hard rocks such as shale in order to release the gas inside. Water is then injected into the rock along with chemicals and sand to encourage the gas to escape to the top of the “mine” or “well.” (If only the teachers had made the lesson that simple!)
It is most commonly performed by drilling across the rock, but it is also regularly performed vertically, going straight down into the ground and enables the extractors to either find new sources of gas, or to extend their existing pipelines to increase their catchment area.
While this may sound like a pretty routine drilling procedure and a perfectly legitimate way of extracting gas from the ground, it is highly controversial and has produced numerous campaigns calling it for the practice of fracking to be ceased. This is down, mainly, to the chemicals being used in the extraction process.
The water used in the process comes predominantly, and wherever possible, from the well itself, but there are concerns among campaigners that the chemicals used can find their way into drinking water. The industry itself has claimed that shale gas is safe, and puts any incidents of polluted drinking water down to simple poor practice as opposed to a dangerous extraction process, which is potentially harmful.
Global warming campaigners are also against shale gas extraction by fracking because it is an abundant fossil fuel that could be used as a cheaper replacement for renewable energy sources.
The process has hit the news on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years, with one highly documented American case of a household claiming that shale gas found its way into their drinking water pipeline and caused the tap water to actually ignite. In the UK, there were two small earthquakes – registering 1.5 and 2.2 on the Richter scale – in the Blackpool area, with fracking actually suspended while investigations were carried out into the cause of the tremors.
So if it’s a potentially dangerous process with so many people against it, why have those in the industry persisted with it, there must be some real advantages of shale gas to make it worthwhile right? In fact, yes, there are. Shale gas actually reduces the cost of gas on the market, actually contributing to a worldwide flow of gas which has halved the price in the US domestic market. A number of research companies have even predicted that there are potential benefits in the UK, with an estimated £70bn worth of reserves currently in the rocks under South Wales.
This article was written by Matt Rawlings, an experienced journalist currently working with McLaren Software. McLaren produce engineering document management software that can be used throughout the construction and use of oil and gas refineries to ensure every process is completed safely.
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