Tara Moberg '08 Fracking is a process for extracting natural gas from shale layers typically thousands of feet deep. So drillers blast the rock layers with highly pressurized water containing chemicals that reduce friction between water and rock. The chemicals make up only a small fraction of the fluid. A few, such as ethylene glycol, are toxic, and some constituents of fluid mixes are protected as trade secrets.
It's either being hailed as a miracle energy source, or it is being condemned as yet another polluting fossil fuel. Today's headlines largely focus on the findings of a joint report pdf by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering which concludes that hydraulic fracturing of shale gas — "fracking" — should be allowed to proceed in the UK, but only with tight regulation and monitoring.
Published ahead of the government's anticipated "green light" for fracking later this summer, the report calls for a long parade of checks and balances, as you might expect it to: Monitoring should be carried out before, during and after shale gas operations to inform risk assessments.
Methane and other contaminants in groundwater should be monitored, as well as potential leakages of methane and other gases into the atmosphere. The geology of sites should be characterised and faults identified. Monitoring data should be submitted to the UK's regulators to manage potential hazards, inform local planning processes and address wider concerns.
Monitoring of any potential leaks of methane would provide data to assess the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction.
But what is missing from much of today's media coverage is mention of - for me at least - the most important paragraph in the whole report: This report has analysed the technical aspects of the environmental, health and safety risks associated with shale gas extraction to inform decision making.
Neither risks associated with the subsequent use of shale gas nor climate risks have been analysed.
Decision making would benefit from research into the climate risks associated with both the extraction and use of shale gas. Further benefit would also be derived from research into the public acceptability of all these risks in the context of the UK's energy, climate and economic policies.
Yes, there are plenty of concerns about the possible localised environmental impacts of fracking, such as earth tremors, aquifer contamination, and surface leaks. As the report concludes, these need constant and tightly-regulated assessment if extraction is to get under way on a commercial scale.
But this is a side salad compared to the picnic hamper of unanswered questions that still hang over fracking when it comes to its possible contribution to climate change.
With nice timing — but largely ignored by the media — is a report out today by the Committee on Climate Changea statutory body set up to advise the UK government on greenhouse gas emissions.
It urges the government to give up on its "dash for gas" in order to help avoid dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Its chief executive, David Kennedy, said: Our analysis shows that power sector decarbonisation is economically sensible, even in a shale gas world.
To frack, or not to frack, is arguably the most pressing environmental decision facing the "greenest government ever" at present. There are clearly huge temptations to proceed: And voices such as James Lovelock say that fracked gas is a lesser evil than coal so we should use it as a bridging technology to "buy us some time".
But there are plenty of legitimate environmental concerns, too, not least that the climate risks have yet to be fully analysed or face democratic scrutiny. And there are worries that fracking will likely hinder or damage the fledgling renewables sector.
Visit the Department for Energy and Climate Change's webpage on shale gas and there is no mention of climate risks. The only direct reference I can find is an archived article by the former energy secretary Chris Huhne from last November: Every national scientific academy in the world agrees: We face ambitious, legally binding carbon emissions and renewable energy targets.
Yes, gas will help us meet them. But we should not bet the farm on shale. He didn't say, though, how this was to be achieved, other than earlier stating:Hydraulic Fracturing Defined Fracking Words Matter Debate on Energy, Environmental, Humans The word fracking – First, I personally and professionally dislike the word for a number of reasons.
First it is jargon and second it is industry slang. The process of fracking creates fractures that extend from wells into oil and gas formations by pumping highly-pressurized fluid--water, sand, ceramic beads, and a mixture of chemicals--into the.
J ust a decade ago, only the smallest sliver of the U.S. population had even heard of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Today, it’s one of the most incendiary environmental topics going.
Today, it’s one of the most incendiary environmental topics going. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock.
Energy firm Cuadrilla has begun fracking in the UK for the first time since the process was. Yes, there are plenty of concerns about the possible localised environmental impacts of fracking, such as earth tremors, aquifer contamination, and surface leaks.
Environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing in the United States of shale include the potential contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, the potential mishandling of waste, and the health effects of these, such as cancer.