The Energy crisis
The modern way of life depends on fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. Although the majority of the people take them for granted it took nature about 5 million years to create the fossil fuels that the World consumes in one year.
Oil powers 96% of all transportation. This demand will grow fast in the following years; considering the population grows at 3% per year, this means it doubles every 23 years.
Since 1860 the World has used approximately half of the oil that has been discovered.
At first oil was easy to find and cheap to extract, but once an oil well starts producing it’s only a matter of time before it starts to decline.
Typically it takes 40 years after the peak of discovery for a country to reach its peak of production after which it reaches a permanent fall. World oil production is peaking or it’s close to it because globally the discoveries of new oil fields peaked in the 1960s. Over 40 years later, the decline of discovery seems unstoppable.
In the 1960s 6 barrels of oil were found for every one that was used. 4 decades later, the world consumes between 3 and 6 barrels of oil for each one that it finds.
However, you may notice a fall in oil prices in the last few months. This is in part due to the rising of ‘Fracking‘, slang for Hydraulic fracturing. This has provided the United States an unexpected source of oil and natural gas.
Fracking describes the recovery of oil or natural gas from deep layers inside the Earth.
First, a vertical passage is drilled several hundred meters into the Earth. From there, a horizontal hole is drilled into the layer of rock. Next, the porous rock is fractured by pumping water with sand and chemicals. When the hydraulic pressure is removed from the well, small grains of sand prevent the cracks from closing again. The chemicals perform various tasks. They condense the water, kill off bacteria and dissolve minerals.
Next, the majority of the Fracking fluid is pumped out again. And now the oil or the natural gas can be recovered. When the oil source is exhausted, the Fracking fluid is pumped back into deep underground layers and the drill hole is sealed.
Its use is controversial because Fracking is also associated with several considerable risks;
Does fracking cause earthquakes?
Fracking has only rarely been known to cause earthquakes. An earthquake provoked by Fracking has its own name: ‘Frackquake‘
Although Fracking itself doesn’t provoke earthquakes the disposal of drilling wastewater used in Fracking has now been scientifically linked to them. Frackquakes are usually about -2 in Richter scale so they are considered micro-earthquakes, but when the water is pumped into a fault like it was in November 2011 in Oklahoma you can get a 5.7 Richter scale magnitude Earthquake.
Contamination of drinking water
The primary risk consists in the contamination of drinking water sources. The Internet is full of people claiming fracking contaminated their water and now they are able to light up their tap water.
Companies, on the other hand, claim there is not a single documented case of treatments polluting a water aquifer and explain:
The depth of most shale gas deposits drilled is between 2 and 3 km. Water aquifers exist at an average depth of 150 meters; the ‘migration’ between the shale gas layers and water aquifers due to fracking or for any other reason, are absurd as the gas would have to pass through millions of tons of impermeable rock. If the rock was that porous, neither the water nor the gas would have been there in the first place.
Along the USA fracking chemicals are trade secrets in some states and in the public domain in others. When listed by Environment activists some of the chemicals are carcinogenic. They even list the radioactive minerals that may be originally deep down and could be brought up. When listed by the companies all the chemicals are found in household cleaning products.
Who to believe?
If fracking is defined as a single fracture of the deep shale, that action might be benign. When multiple “fracks” are done in multiple, adjacent wells however, the risk for contaminating drinking water may rise. If fracking is defined as the entire industrial operation, including drilling and the storage of wastewater, contamination has already been found.
Advanced tests, such as putting tracer chemicals down a well to see if they reappear in drinking water, could ultimately prove whether fracking is safe or not.
Posted by Shedka