Skip to comments.How Well Do You Really Understand Fracking?
Posted on 02/24/2014 4:58:18 AM PST by thackney
Many people have heard the term "fracking" and how it is the future of the U.S. economy, but know very little about what it actually entails. The motivations of the various sides in the debate, beyond bad vs. good for the environment, escape many of us. Companies specializing in these new methods, such as Chesapeake Energy , Devon Energy , and Anadarko Petroleum , are coming to the forefront of the energy industry. So what exactly is fracking??
The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the most effective and efficient way of releasing shale gas from the large number of deposits all over the United States. The process involves blasting a slurry of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure through a pipe drilled deep in the ground, often a mile or greater within a layer of shale. This pulverized solid within a liquid behaves as a thick fluid and under the high pressure works into the cracks in the porous rock. This unlocks the trapped oil and gas, releasing it to flow back up the well pipe.
The question under examination is whether this process is dangerous or not. Like every natural resource or energy extraction process, there are a variety of environmental impacts to the operation. The one with the most potential impact and under the most stringent examination is whether or not the process contaminates the drinking water in the area where the fracking is being performed. On the one side are environmentalists and some scientists who insist that the gases and toxic chemicals that escape during the process find their way into the nearby aquifers located above the shale layer that provides the water supply..
The largest current study being done is by the Department of Environmental Protection. The study began in 2010 but will not be completed until 2016. It will likely play a large part in directing future federal policy and regulation toward this procedure. A similar study by the Department of Energy in Pennsylvania, one of the biggest potential gainers of this process, determined that the process had no effect on drinking water. Another study by Duke University found the opposite, that the drinking water near areas of fracking had higher levels of methane and ethane, two lethal pollutants. This suggested that the drilling has definitely affected the drinking water of residents in the area.
The decision of this study by the EPA will have far-reaching consequences, and as you might expect, the public is almost evenly divided, 49% opposed to 44% in favor according to a 2013 Pew Research study. In many instances, the decision about whether to drill or not will drastically enrich some constituents, while damaging others. In many situations, it is a question of "whose oxen will be gored," as leaders in various states, including the aforementioned Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland, hold off decisions on whether to proceed or not.
It may seem like much of the support is on the side of environmentalism and caution, but this is not the case in practice. In 2013, Illinois and California both passed legislation allowing the drilling, and Pennsylvania, Colorado, and North Dakota are at the beginning of a boom, relieving underperforming economies with the numerous jobs created by the abundant natural resources beneath the surface.
In many cases, the almighty dollar is deciding the answer to the "drill or not drill" question, like in California where a recent USC study suggested that drilling one of their largest shale deposits will bring a windfall of $25 billion in taxes and create 2.8 million jobs by 2020. In New York, a similar situation exists where job-starved upstate residents are pulling hard for fracking to rejuvenate the local economies with the jobs it will bring, while the more liberal and cosmopolitan city dwellers are vehemently opposed due to the lesser impact of the created jobs on their daily lives.
What does this mean for me?
Regardless of the environmental impact, states like North Dakota have already shown that it is exceedingly difficult for residents, especially those in depressed areas and tired of years of underperforming economies, to resist the siren song of a slew of new money and created jobs entering their area. The study by the EPA will certainly have an affect on whether to drill or not. However, it will not be a question of yes or no, but rather how much. Fracking is here to stay -- at least until new technology comes along. Leading drilling companies like Chesapeake, Devon, and Anadarko are looking like strong bets for the near future and beyond.
Has NOW decided that media is run by the Dems.
Fracing has been around for a very long time, it is not something that just popped up to save us all.
That combined with directional drilling has been a savior of our oil industry
Fracking has been around since the 1920’s. 2 million fracks so far.
Having designed high pressure equipment for fracking systems, I think I might have a basic understanding of what’s involved.
And Hydraulic Fracturing since the late 1940s.
Sadly, not enough voters have a basic understanding...
Sadly, not enough voters have a basic understanding...
If folks would listen to someone like Bill Wattenberg they would understand tracking very well
Every time I hear the word “fracking,” I think of the newer Battlestar Galactica.
They guys I know that are in the industry would say this author doesn’t know much either because it’s “fracing” (or “frac’ing”) not “fracking”.
To ignore the most commonly used name in public writing would be silly.
Even back in the 1990s, The Oil & Gas Journal referred to the process as Fracking.
As you know, there is a perfectly logical answer to this misleading finding.
Much of Pennsylvania is underlaid by coalbeds. There is such a thing as "coalbed methane" -- methane given of by and associated with coalbeds. These coalbeds -- and the associated methane -- are shallow and often within the water table. Ergo, methane and ethane were often found in Pennsylvania well water before fracking began.
Fracking is conducted in formations at depths well below the water table and where coalbed methane is found. Shale gas and coalbed methane are totally separate and unrelated deposits.
Agreed ... but apparently that k drives a lot if them nuts.
I think it best to embrace the term rather than give environMENTALists power in using the term.
A long time ago, my family had a drilled well, it suddenly started putting out less and less water, so my dad, this was back in the sixties, went to the hardware store and got a stick or two of dynamite.
He took the well cap off, attached a weight from an old window to the stick of dynamite with a three foot cord, lite it, dropped it into the well, and a few minutes after the explosion, around 150 feet or so down, we had more water than we knew what to do with.
My dad was fracking well before the word fracking was ever used. And he was not alone.
Today, thanks to the BATF, the EPA, the FBi, and a bunch of other federal know it alls, frackin a well is no longer an option cause you can’t buy dynamite.
I was talking to a preacher yesterday, we were talking about federal intrusions into our lives, he said; “______ there is a special place in hell for bureaucrats.”
I agree with him, God has to have a special place of torment reserved for the pond scum who have ruined our country and our lives, under the color of law.
I know I'm distracting from your story, but did your Dad put a large hunk of lead in your family water well?
Obviously, the majority of US voters don’t understand much of anything.
For your info, your Dad was following a long established practice.
Fracturing can be traced to the 1860s, when liquid (and later, solidified) nitroglycerin (NG) was used to stimulate shallow, hard rock wells in Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Window weights are generally cast iron, but even if it were lead, it won’t do a damn thing to water quality, as elemental lead in that form is nearly insoluble in fresh water.
:: did your Dad put a large hunk of lead in your family water well? ::
Sounds like he also “pulverized” that hunk of lead.
Being a highly technical engineer-type, I’ve always wondered what the actual pressures are in fracking for gas?
We had a dry well fracked successfully, but that only took a small 3,000 lbs/psi.
Add jobs, improve the economy, and become an energy self-sufficient nation?
Or continue to be beholden to those who want us dead?
I like to tell the anti-fracking crowd to do an internet search for towns named "burning springs".
” Dad put a large hunk of lead in your family water well?”
Nope, it was made out of cast iron. We have always been into reloading and making our own bullets for target practice, so using lead as a weight would been out of the question.
I didn’t know about using nitro, but I did know that my grandfather used the dynamite technique long before I was born.
Dynamite is based on nitroglycerin.
Can someone explain the validity of laws on 'low flush' toilets again...
Don’t know, but a column of merely static liquid over a mile high would express one helluva pressure at the bottom.
You got that right!
BUT, as the mass of rock is many times more than the mass of water, at any given depth, the pressure on the rock should be the same multiple of rock to water.......
I.e., wouldn’t the rock pressure a mile deep be greater than the water pressure in the ocean a mile deep?
Yes, but only if the rock were a liquid. As it is a solid, the pressure is probably nil at any given point, being distributed over a huge volume.
Have to ask my structural engineer son......I’m electrical......
For those who want to see a 6 minute video showing how horizontal drilling and fracking is done, Northern Gas and Oil has done a great one.
It includes a visual piece on how fresh water aquifers are protected from contamination.
Knowledge is power, keep the link and pass it on.
In the absence of tectonic forces, Pressure to maintain an open vertical fracture the rock, (PR/(1-PR))X(Sig V - Pres) + Pres
where PR = poissons ratio of material = lateral strain/longitudinal strain under longitudinal applied stress. about 0.15 to 0.25 for hard sedimentary sandstone reservoir rock, higher for limestone and shale.
Sig V = vertical stress, aka overburden. basically pressure exerted by overlying rock. 1.1 to 1.15 psi/ft
Pres = Pressure in the reservoir pore space, normal is 0.43 to 0.45 psi/ft, water gradient
it gets more complicated for laminated rocks, grains laid out more like plywood than bound spheres in a sandstone or silt matrix. one must apply variability of horizontal properties (parallel to bedding) and vertical properties (perpendicular to bedding). you can get close on the low side with general isotropic equation above.
induced fractures are almost always vertical, as the horizontal stresses in the earth are almost always less than overburden. Vertical growth stops when layers with stress higher than is within the fracture is encountered. you can build pressure in the fractures exceeding frac pressure which induces greater width. generally extending fracture length is the easier path than creating large widths. widths are on the order of 0.05 to 0.25 inch.
breakdown pressure, necessary to get a fracture started is higher than fracture pressure. usually by a factor of 1.1 to 1.4
so without spending a million or ten acquiring data, usually around 0.55 to 0.80 psi/ft (vertical feet depth)plus all the friction getting the fluid down there. 5000 psi in shallow basins is common (8000’ or less) 10,000 in deeper basins and 12,000+ psi in deep basis with high reservoir pressure. Fracs have been done over 20,000 psi at surface, but rare. the 3000 psi job mentioned was probably on what’s nicknamed a post hole, under 3000’ deep.
Haha, me too, but I also took strengths of materials and fluids. But that was back...way back! You raise good points. I guess the liquid needs to be forced into the cracks to further fracture the rock. The solids prolly don’t harbor any gas anyway, so who cares. It’s in those pesky cracks.
Wow! Thank you. The math surprisingly simple, but I get the drift.
News to me: fractures are mostly vertical , I thought they were mostly horizontal. And the pressures -even at 20k lbs./psi - are far below what I thought were required.
Isn’t fracking done in granite too? What is the PR for granite?
Granite PR is probably around 0.2. not tolerating a lot of bend before it snaps.
there have been be instances of frac’ing granite, but not like in the simple planar fracturing sense. What would be the use? It’s very low porosity and can’t store much or any reservoir fluids. There are rare hydrocarbon deposits seeped out of sedimentary source rocks above or alongside granite. In order to store hydrocarbons, or water in geothermal heat operation, the granite must have a naturally fractured secondary porosity and permeability system in place. Granite formation frac jobs are really just injection to sweep reservoir damage from drilling out away from the wellbore. There may occur induced fracture components in the process, but likely not the main objective.
Though I did teach science once upon a life, what I don’t know about geology would fill half the universe.
But I do know enough to understand what you are saying - it only makes sense. I know nothing of the geology of where oil and gas are, except for hearing the word “sands” a few times.
Fracking. What could be better?