Hydraulic Fracturing Environmental Effects

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Hydraulic Fracturing: An Overview

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique that increases the extraction of gas and oil from deep rock formations. The procedure entails pumping high-pressure fluids into an oil-and-gas-producing rock structure to shatter it. The injected substance is often water, a chemical, and a proppant, which is usually sand. After the high-pressure injection, the proppant leaves the newly formed fractures open, allowing oil and gas to spill to the surface. Fracking allows for the extraction of natural gas and gas from the earth's crust, mostly under underground wells. At this level, there may not be adequate permeability or reservoir pressure for natural gas and oil to flow from the rock into the surface at economic rate. Therefore, creating conductive fractures is critical to the extraction of gas from the reservoirs due to the natural low permeability (Vitthalrao 52).

Potential Water Contamination

Fractures offer a conductive path connecting the reservoir to the well. There are legitimate concerns about the potential consequences of fracturing on groundwater, subsurface and surface water contamination. The contamination of ground water is a legitimate concern, particularly from gas leaking alongside or through damaged sealed well casing, and sustained upward migration of gas within the naturally occurring fractures (Vitthalrao 60). At the surface, potential threat of contamination arises majorly from spill-related contamination. Surface water may be contaminated from industrial activities and storage of chemicals at fracturing well pads, and the storage and handling of "flowback water" that return to the ground after injection into the ground under high pressure. The water contains fracturing fluid which often contains salts, naturally occurring radioactive substances, and trace elements such as arsenic and barium.

Environmental Impact

Another legitimate concern involves the impact of fracturing on the climate. The increased consumption of gas produced increase carbon dioxide and methane production, which have adverse effects on the climate. Although natural gas produces less carbon dioxide per consumed unit compared to coal, methane leaks along the consumption path contribute significant greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Hydraulic fracturing is prone to cause negative seismic activities, inducing "man-made" earthquakes, fragmenting habitats and other negative impacts on land (Meng 958). The injection or extraction of liquids under pressure can trigger seismic events or activate an existing geological condition. Inducing a fracture can destabilize geological formation. In countries such as the UK and the USA, there have been documented cases of earthquakes resulting from hydraulic fracturing (Stringfellow, William T., et al.450). Although the potential risk to cause earthquakes is minimal, it is critical to explore the long-term effects fracturing and its effects on different geological formations.

Regulations and Concerns

I believe these concerns are genuine and there is a great need to invest in good laws and regulations to control fracking projects globally. While fracking provides an economically viable process of extracting useful resources, it is fundamentally important to address all the concerns raised by various stakeholders. Most countries already have laws that govern fracking projects do not harm the environment. However, due to various interests involved in balancing the benefits of the process and its effect on the environment, the enforcement of these laws and regulations may be unsatisfactory.

Scientific Research and Risk Analysis

The environmental costs and benefits of hydraulic fracturing remain controversial. Jackson et al (39) report that the primary threats of fracking to water sources are surface spills, wastewater disposal, and contamination of drinking water through poor well integrity. Fracking also causes potential health threats such as increasing the volatility of organic compounds and release of air toxins. As a peer-reviewed article, the credibility of its finding is high. Jackson et al addresses most of the aspect associated with fracking in a systematic way. They explore how much water the extraction of energy using unconventional methods, the risks of fracturing to surface and ground water sources, induced and seismicity. Throughout the review, Jackson et al (2014) remains objective as the give a balanced exploration of major concerns associated with fracking. They rely heavily on secondary sources and cite adequate resources to support their review. Instead of taking side, the article focuses on giving recommendations on how to improve fracking and areas of future research. For instance, while they acknowledge the potential benefits of fracking, they also highlight possible threat it poses to the environment and health. Their recommendations are objectives and they target exploration or drilling firms and policy makers. However, the recommendations also highlight inconclusive areas of research where industry players have to focus so as to conclusively identify long-term effects of fracking. Additionally, the authors have declared any potential conflict of interest.

Meiner and Bergmann conducted a comprehensive risk analysis of the potential environmental impact of fracking, its risks for the people, and knowledge needed to assess these impacts. The study was based on the basis of freely accessible information and data. It relied extensively from environmental bodies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The article approaches the concern using the different pathways of fracking and consumption of gas. According to the study, it is only in combination with technical and geological pathways that substance-related hazard potentials of fracking projects related to exploration and exploitation of gas can be a risk to the environment. The content of the article is inclined to address regulators, industry players and researchers. For instance, in the recommendation, the authors underscore the need to collect more information and data regarding the potential environmental impact of fracking. Additionally, the author highlights the current mining and water laws that ensure the protection of groundwater. Therefore, although the findings are credible, it is essential to acknowledge possible bias obtaining data from regulatory bodies can have on the findings. Additionally, the study was commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency of Germany. The agency is mandated with protecting the environment. Therefore, the findings may have a regulatory inclination.


Since the industry-adoption of fracking, there have been a lot studies and policy papers exploring the environmental effects of the process. Stakeholders, policy makers, miners and explorers offer differing view on the potential benefits and adverse effects of fracking on the environment. Potential negative consequences of fracturing on groundwater, subsurface and surface water have been reported by various studies. Additionally, there are concerns that fracking may trigger negative seismic activities and release toxics substances, such radioactive materials. However, most countries have established strong laws and regulations to control fracking process to ensure the economic benefits of the process does not outweigh the environmental cost. These laws and regulations should be enforced to the latter to ensure the society develop sustainably.

Works Cited

Jackson Robert., Vengosh Avner., Carey William., Davies Richard., Petron Gabrielle. “The Environmental costs and benefits of fracking.” Reviews in Advance, 2014.

Meng, Qingmin. "The Impacts of Fracking on the Environment: A Total Environmental Study Paradigm." Science of the Total Environment, vol. 580, 15 Feb. 2017, pp. 953-957.

Mieners Georg., and Bergmann Axel “Environmental Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Related to Exploration and Exploitation of Unconventional Natural Gas Deposits.” Federal Ministry for The environmebt, nature conservation and nuclear safety, 2012.

Stringfellow, William T., et al. "Identifying Chemicals of Concern in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids Used for Oil Production." Environmental Pollution, vol. 220, Jan2017 Part A, pp. 413-420.

Vitthalrao Khyade. “Hydraulic fracturing; Environmental issue.” World Scientific News 40 (2016) 58-92.

December 21, 2022

Environment Life

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