There's a lot to learn about hydraulic fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as 'fracking', 'fracing', or 'hydrofracking', is a controversial technique to extract natural gas and oil from the shale formations that reside deep below the earth's surface. If you are just beginning your education on the topic, we want to assist you by providing plenty of information to become more knowledgable. Often, the issue is divided between proponents and opposers to the industrial process, and our perspective is particular to the Kent County local water resources. Regardless of your opinion on the subject, we would like everyone to become knowledgeable and prepared for the best and the worst that the industry will bring.
The basics: what does hydraulic fracturing mean?
Let's start with one of the most important points in the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing: the meaning of the words 'hydraulic' and 'fracture'.
Hydraulic is Greek in origin, specifically a combination of hydor (referring to water) and aulos (referring to hollow tube) [source]. Today, hydraulic is more commonly used to refer to water or another liquid in motion, particularly anything that is operated, moved, or effected by means of water [source].
Fracture seems to be of Latin origin, from the word fractionem (referring to the action of breaking into pieces) [source]. Still today, fracture refers to breaking into pieces, and it commonly refers to the breaking of hard material resembling bone [source].
Putting the two words together, hydraulic fracturing broadly refers to the act of breaking a hard material into pieces by force of a liquid. You may think that this is trivial information; however, it is unfortunately one of the most crucial topics. Why? Because hydraulic fracturing does not mean anything more than breaking a material into pieces by force from a liquid.
Breaking a material into pieces by force from a liquid cannot contaminate drinking water aquifers, nor can it be toxic to the air. Also, breaking a material into pieces by force from a liquid cannot release radioactive materials or cause earthquakes, and similarly, it cannot drain our watersheds of millions of gallons of water. Yet, you will read throughout our website and the internet that hydraulic fracturing is responsible for these damages around the world. Technically speaking, it is not the act of breaking a material into pieces by force from a liquid that is to blame, but rather the industrialization process of hydraulic fracturing. The industrialization process includes:
- Land leasing by the oil and gas companies
- Deforestation and clearing of 5-8 acre well pad area
- Transportation of chemicals, fluids, and materials to the well pad
- Storage of chemicals, fluids, and materials
- Well drilling operations
- Well casing operations
- Extreme water withdrawals
- Hydraulic fracturing operations
- Hazardous waste collection, handling, transportation, and disposal
- Oil and gas collection, handling, and transportation
- Well capping operations
- Well pad area clean up operations
- The continued existence of the capped well
Now that you're familiar with the true meaning of hydraulic fracturing as well as the industrialization process of hydraulic fracturing, we hope that you don't mind us using the term hydraulic fracturing as opposed the repeatedly clarifying the industrialization process. In addition, we also hope you are able to recognize the tricky statement that "hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated water aquifers". Indeed, breaking a material into pieces by force from a liquid could never do that. However, the industrialization process has done so repeatedly across the country.