Hydraulic Fracturing: Risks & Regulations

Water Law Resource
July 18, 2013 — 3,802 views  
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A Hydraulic system in simple words refers to the use of fluid for transferring energy from one end to the other. The main motive of this system is to transfer energy or power from one point to several other points. It runs on a simple idea that is application of force with the use of incompressible fluid.

What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

For a long time hydraulic fracturing has been mistaken with the process of ‘drilling’. Hydraulic fracturing is also called as fracking. This process involves drilling shale gas reserves under the ground. It drills all the way through the water table to reach the underground gas reserves. The shale reserves are broken down with the help of many gallons of water to release the gas. This process is used to boost the flow of natural gas or oil from the well. A mixture of proppants like ceramic beads or sand along with water and chemicals is used in hydraulic fracturing. This mixture is then pumped at a high pressure into the rock formations. This high pressure leads to fractures in the rocks and moves them outwards. It is done to generate a network of fractures that are interconnected. The proppants ensure that the fractures remain open allowing the natural gas and oil to flow to out of the well.

Risk of Hydraulic Fracturing

It is very important to carry out the process of hydraulic fracturing very carefully. Even a small amount of negligence can be hazardous. The following are a few risks associated with hydraulic fracturing:

  • The hazardous water can get released in the groundwater. This can lead the gas in the contaminated water to get into houses and the soil. It can then result in dangerous situations like explosions.
  • This process contaminates large amount of water by the use of chemicals. Some of the chemicals used in the process can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Close to 30% of these can also result in reproductive problems and cancerous complications.
  • Some companies have been charged with spraying the contaminated fluid on roads. This poses a strong threat to humans as well as animals. Any contact with the chemicals and toxins in the fluid is dangerous.
  • The gas companies use the public wastewater plants to dispose the contaminated fluids. These plants do not have the capacity to remove the large amount of toxins, sediments and chemicals from the chemical wastewater. This poses the possible threat of release of chemicals into drinking water sources like streams and rivers.

Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

Proper regulation of hydraulic fracturing is very important to ensure the protection of human and animal life along with the natural resources. Most of the hydraulic fracturing regulations have been sourced from the laws of the oil and gas industry. United States has adopted certain regulations to carry out safe hydraulic fracturing.

The information guideline from the Energy and Resources department states that the fluids and chemical agents must be properly managed to prevent environmental adversities. Texas Railroad Commission has directed effective protection of ground and surface water. These regulations help in covering the risks of the process to a large extent.

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