Studies investigate effects of hydraulic fracturing

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Abstract

The use of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, to enhance the retrieval of natural gas from shale has been increasing dramatically—the number of natural gas wells rose about 50% since 2000. Shale gas has been hailed as a relatively low-cost, abundant energy source that is cleaner than coal. However, fracking involves injecting large volumes of water, sand, and chemicals into deep shale gas reservoirs under high pressure to open fractures through which the gas can travel, and the process has generated much controversy. The popular press, advocacy organizations, and the documentary film Gasland by Josh Fox have helped bring this issue to a broad audience. Many have suggested that fracking has resulted in contaminated drinking water supplies, enhanced seismic activity, demands for large quantities of water that compete with other uses, and challenges in managing large volumes of resulting wastewater. As demand for expanded domestic energy production intensifies, there is potential for substantially increased use of fracking together with other recovery techniques for “unconventional gas resources,” like extended horizontal drilling.

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