This blog piece attempts to examine whether any harm will take place from the oil well method of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, where huge amounts of water that is mixed with chemicals could be poisonous to our population now and into the future. Our concern is this. Is there any potential for the contamination of local community aquifer layer where ground water can be extracted?
It appears that fracking is currently taking place in a very significant way. Problem is, there appears not to be any meaningful studies that can prove yes or no or how much ground water contamination is there or might be in the future. We have heard reports that methanol is escaping from compromised oil well casings and entering ground water supplies.
Dr. Swackhamer stressed that each of the steps of the water cycle in hydraulic fracturing constitutes a potential risk for water contamination and consequent impact on the environment. Not only with wells that are used for shale gas extraction, but in general all wells of similar construction present the most noticeable weaknesses in their physical structure. Most reports on contamination of aquifers pinpoint the cause of contamination as a leak of the well casing, pipes, or storage tanks. The integrity of the wells is critical in their operation and in the minimization of risk. Some of the wells are intended to be used several times, debilitating the structure and compromising operations. In terms of water use, the fluid is injected in the well at extremely high pressures under circumstances that are not completely known. Any engineering structure has a failure rate.
After the fluid has been injected and the fissures in the rock have been opened, there is not a clear indication of what happens to that water. There are estimates that the flowback or collected water is around 40 percent, but some locations have reported a 20 percent and even 80 percent flowback. Considering that a large percentage of the water remains in the ground, it is possible that it can migrate upward or continue to flow for long distances. The gases themselves can be pushed and potentially contaminate aquifers. Another consequence of not accounting for the total balance of injected water and flowback is the accumulation of chemicals in the ground. All the chemicals that are injected in the fluid could prove a more serious long-term contamination problem. Even though the injection is done several thousand feet “underground, the composition of the soil is being altered and there is a disruption in the ecosystem, with unknown consequences.
It would appear that fracking is so new that science finds itself way behind measuring its long term health impacts upon our aquifers. Because this practice is currently so wide spread and expanding across the United States, it has the potential to irreparably harm this nation’s water resource if we do not stop fracking or strictly limit it to certain geographical locations so as to study what the health risks, if any may be, and how this may play out for future generations of humane beings. Another approach is to use no chemical fracking. The point is to hold fast until science can catch up. This is not to conclude, at this moment, that the practice is definitely harmful even though common sense seems to indicate that it is, but how about letting the scientists prove that it is safe?