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Hydraulic Fracturing

Is hydrologic fracturing a suitable form of energy production? Over the past 85 years, the American Petroleum Institute, API, has been developing and refining engineering standards and practices for the industry. The past decade has brought about a new practice which involves hydraulic fracturing in order to produce oil and natural gas in places where conventional technologies are ineffective. This is a rather in depth process.

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Firstly, a production drill is drilled through the rock layers to intersect the coal seem that contains coal bed methane, CBM.

Next, fractures are created or existing fractures are enlarged in the coal seem so that the CBM can be drawn from the well and pumped to the surface. These fractures are created or enlarged by using a thick water-based fluid which is gradually increased by rate and pressure. Then, over time the coal seam is unable to keep up with the fracturing fluid which results in high pressure causing the coal to fracture along the weaknesses within. Sand is pumped into these fractures to keep them ‘propped’ open after the pressures are released.

The first diagram in the appendix shows what occurs in the subsurface during a typical hydraulic fracturing event. After a period of fluid recovery or groundwater extraction is when the extraction of CBM occurs. As pumping continues, the pressure eventually decreases so that the methane desorbs from the coal, flows and is extracted through the production well. The fracture created acts as a conduit in the rock or coal formation, allowing the CBM to flow more freely from the coal seems through the fracture system and to the production where gas is pumped to the surface.

Unlike conventional gas production, the amount of water extracted declines proportionally with increasing CBM production (US EPA, 2004). The demand of natural gas is expected to increase drastically over the next 20 years, causing the need for innovative production to fill the growing demand. Many may believe that there are other ways to fulfill the need of natural gas, due to production concerns, but this is a suitable form of energy production. Hydraulic fracturing should be used because it will provide a significant increase in jobs, economic growth, and clean burning energy.

The Keystone XL pipeline has had much controversy in the news recently. This pipeline is an extension onto the existing pipeline running from Canada to the United States. The pipeline would increase crude oil capacity between the two countries allowing for a more diverse supply among the United States’ worldwide crude oil sources, shorten the transportation pathway for crude oil supplies, and increase the crude oil supplies from a major non-organization of petroleum exporting countries producer. “The use of hydraulic fracturing will help make our country more energy self-reliant and more secure” (Green, 2012).

This statement was made by the API President and CEO, Jack Gerard during the second State of American Energy event January 4. He also proceeded to state that the United State’s resources on and offshore are among the largest in the world. This means that with the right policies in place, there could be 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs supplied domestically and from Canada by 2026. Also, with a pro-energy development approach 1 million new US jobs by 2018 could be produced along with billions of dollars in additional revenue to government (Green, 2012).

The increase in jobs from this production is approximately 334,000 in the past two years after the 3 million manufacturing jobs lost from 2001-2007. Hydraulic fracturing has rapidly increased the domestic production of natural gas and has seen low domestic prices for households. Figure five below shows the increase in production rates over the last several years (Green, 2012). The oppositions to this vision are primarily political on an ecological level. In order for the process to run smoothly water use is needed.

Many think that the water used for hydraulic fracturing could deplete fresh water supplies and impact aquatic habitat. Some also say that the groundwater could be contaminated. Some hydraulic fracturing fluids can also contain chemicals. Typically a mixture of water, proppants and chemicals are what is pumped into the rock or coal to fracture the wells. Eco-friendly leaders and environmentalists are taking a stand to state that these chemicals, use of water and damage to groundwater are not acceptable and this energy method should not be used. Firstly, chemicals typically make up just 0. and 2% of the total volume of the fracturing fluid with the majority being water. Secondly, natural gas emits fewer greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels, about half as much of carbon dioxide as coal which contributes to less global warming. Thirdly, with the halting of fracturing in some states due to pressures from environmental and public health groups asking the EPA for tests and proof that it is safe to continue with this type of energy production, supporters are concerned that it could hinder U. S. job growth and energy output in a time of need (McLendon, 2010).

The tests from the EPA will take roughly two years, so until then it is a waiting process. As you can see, this is a roughly new energy production that does need to be researched more. From my point of view the pros seem to outweigh the cons. I think more tests and actual data about contamination and whether it is really safe will be the true test. The increase in jobs, economic growth, and clean burning energy is most definitely what this country needs right now. The true outlook on this issue will come towards the later part of this year when the test results conclude. References

Green, M. (2012, January 05). Starting the energy debate. Retrieved from http://energytomorrow. org/blog/starting-the-energy-debate/ McLendon, R. (2010, December 10). Big frack attack: Is hydraulic fracturing safe?. Retrieved from http://www. mnn. com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/big-frack-attack-is-hydraulic-fracturing-safe US EPA. (2004, June). Evaluation of impacts to underground sources of drinking water by hydraulic fracturing of coalbed methane reservoirs. Retrieved from http://www. epa. gov/safewater/uic/pdfs/cbmstudy_attach_uic_exec_summ. pdf Appendix