Environmental Problems Associated with Fracking

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Fracking is also known as hydraulic fracturing is a procedure of forming fractures in rocks with the intention of generating fluid under pressure. The liquid released during the process is often gas or petroleum consumed in the various industry for the production of energy. However, in some cases, these fractures naturally occur in case of “dikes” or “veins” where lava from within the earth’s crust has flown towards the surface. With the advancement of knowledge within the energy industry, most scientists have considered the technology to be a remedy for energy shortage by creating artificial fracturing on a layer of rock.

The method accompanied by horizontal drilling is securely unlocking natural gas and oil reserves in several parts of the world especially in Canada and the US. However, just like other fossil fuel extraction techniques, it also has some controversial news and theories touching on the safety of the ecosystem around. Consequently, the paper will focus on discussing fracking and tar sands in regards to global warming and pollution of soil, water, and oil. Finally, it will provide a conclusion and opinion of the writer on possible solutions to the problem in a bid to prevent severe global warming.

Controversial News and theories

However, the method has some controversies surrounding it that have hampered its support by various policy-makers and climate change activists. Hydraulic fracturing, as a fossil fuel extraction approach, requires the use of large amount of water, sand and a combination of chemicals to break down the organic-rich shale in a bid to generate natural gas resources. One of the major concerns associated with the technique is that it permits the leaking of chemicals, which are the main causes of groundwater, wells and other water resources contamination (Dodge, 889). As a result, fracking has a possibility of affecting the quality of water for human consumptions in the regions practicing the process. Even though hydraulic fracturing is supplementing the extraction of naturally occurring fossil fuels if relevant policy-makers do not consider an appropriate measure it will lead to heightened levels of global warming. The chemicals released in the process could cause skin or eye irritation and infection of other sensory organs such as the brain. Exposure to volatile organic compounds at low levels causes serious harm to human body and health in general.

The cocktail of chemicals utilized in the process is relatively low with approximately 95 percent being water while about 5 percent is sand. Some of the chemicals used in the procedure that are both carcinogenic and toxic may escape and contaminate water sources around the hydraulic fracturing site hence affecting its enactment in various cities and towns. The water flowing back from drilling is naturally a salty brine that is susceptible to the growth of microorganisms and possibly contaminated with heavy metals. Moreover, there is concern over the proper disposal strategy of the millions of contaminated gallons of water as well as trucking it on winding. Therefore, the procedure has worked against most of the companies’ urge to remain environmentally responsible to prevent chronic pollution of soil, water, and oil, which results in damaging of the natural ecosystem. Environmental activists believe that states ought to rely on other renewable sources of energy rather than continuing extracting fossil fuels. The process has resulted in bad environmental practices in several parts of the US and Canada where it is extensively practiced.    

The working of Fracking Process

The fracking process commences by the injection of water to induce a fracture in shale on the subsurface to increase hydraulic conductivity and permeability. The sieved sand acts as a proppant added to prevent the closing back of the fractured rock. Furthermore, the sand offers a medium for the fluid used in fracturing to pass through. The operation requires a small concentration of chemical additives to enhance the output of fossil fuels. These seasonings usually encompass chemicals to lower the friction within the well and enable efficient movement of the proppant through the fissures of the rocks. The process prevents algal and bacterial growth as well as pipe corrosion, which may harm the structure of the well. The common additives used include a biocide, acid, breakers, corrosion inhibitors, gel, and friction reducer just to mention a few.

As noted earlier, the process uses pressurized fluid to enlarge the fissures in the rock to produce natural gas or oil from underground reservoirs. These structures exist in porous dolomite, limestones, and sandstone rocks. In most cases, the oil formation is retrievable from as deep as 5,000-20,000 feet or more. The creation of fissures takes place when the pumped fracking fluid is at an appropriate rate that surpasses the gradient of the rock crack. As the crack advances, miners add permeable material such as sand to the hole. Therefore, the drawing of the fuel takes place upwards through the porous substance.

Environmental Problems associated with Fracking

The environmental problems of production of oil using the tar sand and fracking technique are high starting with its consequences on global warming (Belza, 55; Rosa et al. 164). The use of the approach not only propagates climate changes but also worsens the concern from consumption of oil. Even though the end products from tar sands and conventional oil are similar, generating a barrel of oil through fracking release nearly three times more greenhouse gas contamination compared to the conventional oil (Woynillowicz, 1).

The air pollution emanating from tar sands has rapidly increased as it releases common air pollutants from burning fossil fuels. The modeling of influences of fracking and tar sands has revealed the maximum ambient concentration of pollutants such as Sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide will exceed the current concentration (Woynillowicz, 1). These unstable compounds cause adverse effects on the human health such as throat and eye infections, as well as other species (Dyer, 1). Moreover, the emanation of volatile organic compounds, for instance, benzene, glycol, methylene chloride, and ethylene have also augmented owing to discharges from fossil fuel burning. These substances have elevated the level of air and water pollution hence growing global warming concern in the last few decades.

The process also has a considerable impact on surface water sources such as rivers, and lakes. The technique uses approximately 4.5 barrels of fresh water obtained from the rivers for each oil barrel produced (Mrdjen and Jiyoung, 362). Therefore, the volume consumed in the process is significantly high per year. However, unlike city wastewaters treated before discharging into the river, tar sands mining waste are extremely contaminated, which may force the authorities to impound it.


In a nutshell, fracking and tar sands is one of the best technologies currently utilized to produce oil from fissures on rocks to supplement the shortage of crude oil and economic growth in various parts of the world. Nonetheless, the technology has some shortcomings that heightened the level of pollution, which is one of the fears of the human race. Consequently, based on the assessment of the mining method, I think states should put strategies to reduce the number of excavating sites that use the technique to lower the concentration of pollutants. They ought to implement environmental improvements measures to achieve a balance between increased economic performances, energy development, and environmental advancement to ensure sustainability (Carson, 1). The main focus on tar sands studies is to reduce the quantity of water consumed in the process. Therefore, the experts ought to advance the recycling of water system with the objective of zero discharge of liquid. The effort aims at reducing the number of barrels used to minimize the use of surface water while maximizing the production of oil through tar sands and fracking (Carson, 1).           


Works Cited

Belza, Joseph. "Inverse Condemnation and Fracking Disasters: Government Liability for the Environmental Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing under Constitutional Takings Theory." Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, no. 1, 2017, p. 55.

Carson, Bruce. “Sustainable solutions in the oil sands.” 2011. Retrieved on September 15, 2018 from http://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/from-climate-change-to-clean-energy/sustainable-solutions-in-the-oil-sands/

Dodge, Jennifer. "Crowded Advocacy: Framing Dynamic in the Fracking Controversy in New York." Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary & Nonprofit Organizations, vol. 28, no. 3, June 2017, pp. 888-915.

Dyer, Simon. “Environmental Impacts of Oil Sands Development in Alberta.” 2009. Retrieved on September 15, 2018 from https://www.resilience.org/stories/2009-09-22/environmental-impacts-oil-sands-development-alberta/

Mrdjen, Igor and Jiyoung Lee. "High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Operations: Potential Impacts on Surface Water and Human Health." International Journal of Environmental Health Research, vol. 26, no. 4, Aug. 2016, pp. 361-380.

Rosa, Lorenzo, Davis, Kyle, F, Rulli, Maria and D’Odorico, Paolo. “Environmental consequences of oil production from oil sands.” 16 December, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016EF000484

Woynillowicz, Dan. “The harm the Tar Sands will do.” 2007. Retrieved on September 15, 2018 from https://thetyee.ca/Views/2007/09/20/TarSands/

August 09, 2023



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