Research Paper Help on Hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic
fracturing

Introduction

The
geologic formations sometimes contains large pools of oil and/or gas but may
have a poor flow rate due to clogging or low permeability of the formation
during drilling and occurs in laces that have tight sands, shale’s or places
that have methane formations. To extract the mineral deposits in such places,
hydraulic fracturing/cracking or fracking process is used since it has the
capability of stimulating wells drilled into the mineral formation locations
thus enabling the extraction of oil or gas economically. Hydraulic fracturing
is therefore a well stimulation technique that enables a rock to be fractured
by hydraulically pressured liquid that comprises of water sand and other
chemicals into a wellbore to create cracks that allow gas and other natural gases
to flow freely and easily towards the collection point. The science behind the
fracking process occurs after wells have been drilled and steel pipe inserted
in the well bore. The steel case piping is perforates within the targeted
oil/gas zones such that when the fracturing fluid is injected into the well, it
flows through the perforations into the targeted zones where pressure is
created that causes the formation to crack/fracture, after which injection is
ceased allowing the fracturing fluid to flow back to the surface. The fractures
may also be created by injecting gases like propane or nitrogen causing
acidizing and fracturing where acid is pumped into the formation to dissolve
rock materials and to clean the pores to enable gas or oil to flow better into
the wells.

Economic analysis of fracking

Costs

Some
costs associated with fracking include the large amount of water required to
crack a single well and the toxic chemicals that have to be pumped into the
rock formations to crack the surface. Fracking also produces greenhouse gases
which affects the environment negatively. There has been reported tectonic
impact of the disposal wells that lead to minor earthquakes in the nearby
settlements. This is disastrous as it may lead to loss of lives and destruction
of buildings. Water contamination cannot be avoided as a result of fracking.

Benefits

Since
the advent of fracking, gas prices have lowered comparatively because of the
competitive nature of the natural gas. One of the benefits associated with
natural gas is that it produces less carbon dioxide and less sulfur dioxide
which leads to multiple health problems. Green house emission have also been
reported to have decreased as a result of the fracturing. Before the advent of
the shale gas, importation of the gas would have been inevitable, thus
increasing the cost of the product to the consumer.  Natural gas can be burned to produce electricity
that is cheaper and cleaner than coal (Wicander & Monroe, 2015). Upon the extraction
of the hydraulic fracturing, a lot of employment opportunities are availed to
the many unemployed Americans. This in effects uplifts the living standards of
the population and reduces the burden of government support to the unemployed.
At the same time, fracking has helped accelerate the growth of the energy
sector thus increasing the annual GDP by over $300 billion annually (Gilbert, 2011).
Steady production of oil can be deduced from the undertaking thus reducing the
import capacity costs.

Environmental
Risks

Though
hydraulic fracturing is one of the key methods that are used to extract
unconventional gases and other natural gas resources, it poses various risks,
both to the human being and the environment/habitats. Some of these issues that
impact the environment includes the water usage, chemical usage, pollution,
effect on the air among other effects.

According
to a 2010 survey that was carried out by the US Environmental Protection
Agency, it was estimated that between 70 and 140 billion gallons of water were
used to fracture 35000 wells every year. This is equivalent to the annual water
consumption of 40 – 80 cities whose population is 50,000. The extraction of
such amount of water has ecological impact in that it affects the aquatic life
as well as the aspect of dewatering the water aquifers.  At the same time, the water transportation modes
(trucks) affects the habitat by creating a localized air quality and road
maintenance issues (Spellman, 2013). It should be noted that these gas and oil
wells use large quantities of sand and proppants that leads top excess water
consumption and air pollution. Health problems may also arise that relates to
crystalline silica.

During
the extraction of the unconventional minerals and shale gas, a lot of toxic
chemicals are used that amount to approximately 0.5-2% of the volume of the
fracturing fluids. The more the water used, the more the toxic gas implying
that  the toxic fluid are a health hazard
to human, animals and plants. Some of these chemicals cause incurable diseases
including cancer (Spellman, 2013). These chemicals pollutes the water
underground, thus affecting the aquatic life as well as the air and drinking
water. Any human being that get exposed to the fracking chemicals are likely to
have health effects including skin, eye and sensory issues, respiratory and
gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, kidney issues among many
other health concerns (Howarth, Ingraffea & Engelder, 2011).

There
also exists the contamination of soil and surface water during waste disposal
and chemical injection and preparation. The ground water which may have coal
bends containing enough water for drinking may become contaminated as a result.
Of concern is the chemical component that is left in the  underground after fracturing is done. This
may lead to water contamination for many years to come. The air quality is also
compromised as a result of chemical toxicity near the wells due to flow backs and
during injection.

Hurdles to regulating fracking

The
state regulations have enabled the extraction of the unconventional gas to
operate safely and in an environmental friendly manner. Stiff measures
including fines and other punitive measures have been put in place to prevent
companies undertaking fracturing from destroying the environment. Ground water
protection agencies have been formed to address possible pollution to the
waters and each state has been mandated to disclose chemicals used in fracturing.
Waste management commissions have also been formed to ensure safe disposal of
the waste products resulting from the fracking activities.

Effect of the energy markets since the advent of
fracking

The
advent of fracking has increased the competition in the energy sector in the United
States.  In particular, the prices of
energy/gas has decreased considerably and its increase has led US into being self-sufficient
thus limiting their imports. The US market has now become an exporter of gas
and coals that it no longer need. At the same time, as a result, the regulatory
framework has changed to accommodate fracturing.  

The future role of natural gas and shale oil in the
energy markets

Possible
statistics depicts a positive trend in the production of shale gas. In the
future, it is expected that the fractured gas will play a major role in the
energy sector in the United States. It is expected that about 42% of the total
US gas will emanate from the unconventional gas production. At the same time,
the demand for the natural gas will be expected to increase and many parties will
volunteer to work towards the exploration of the natural gas that will help
supply the nation for many years to come. Finally, I is expected that the low
natural gas and oil prices will help improve the energy sector by increasing
the firms fueled by the cheap natural gas. The continued production of the
natural oil will enable US to be self-sufficient in oil production and will
help the country export surplus to other countries

Policy recommendation and course of action on
fracking

Approximately
300,000 barrels of natural gas are produced each day through the process of
hydraulic fracking. This is a good economic undertaking, but it succeeds at the
expenses of environmental, safety as well as health hazard. This being the
case, it is important for all the concerned authorities to address the issue
and come up with strategies that could exploit these minerals without
destroying the future. With the rising ozone degradation, the environment has to
be protected under whatever cost. The extracting companies ought to liaise with
the relevant bodies as they undertake their fracturing processes.
Strategically, regulations should be put in place so that the companies
undertaking the fracturing report and disclose promptly the type of chemical’s
being used and the effect on the environment. The use of nontoxic chemicals
ought to be encouraged including nontoxic deliveries. At the same time, the
government and the federal bodies should ensure that the disposal of the waste
water that contains chemicals is done appropriately. In this, toxic waste
treatment facilities should be created that concentrate all waste products in a
given place for efficient disposal. Strategies to recycle waste water to be
used for re-drilling should also be put in place.  All in all, the government should aim at
ensuring transparency in hydraulic fracturing and should put measures in place
that help identify the processes and effects of the hydraulic fracturing
process.

References

Gilbert,
J. R. (2011). Assessing the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing. Mo.
Envtl. L. & Pol’y Rev., 18, 170-208.

Howarth,
R. W., Ingraffea, A., & Engelder, T. (2011). Natural gas: Should fracking
stop?. Nature, 477(7364), 271-275.

Spellman,
F. R. (2013). Environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Boca Raton, FL: CRC
Press.

Wicander,
R., & Monroe, J. (2015). Historical geology. Cengage Learning.

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