Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is a proven technological advancement which allows natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations. Hydraulic fracturing is the injection of fluid under pressure to facilitate the production of oil and natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing, combined with sophisticated horizontal drilling, can recover extraordinary amounts of deep shale natural gas from across the United States. The Center is studying the issue and is very concerned about threats to groundwater by the use of this technique.

Hydraulic fracturing is used in oil and natural gas production. After a well is drilled into reservoir rock that contains oil, natural gas, and water, every effort is made to maximize the production of oil and gas. In hydraulic fracturing, a fluid (usually water containing specialty high-viscosity fluid additives) is injected under high pressure. The pressure exceeds the rock strength and the fluid opens or enlarges fractures in the rock. These larger, man-made fractures start at the injection well and extend as much as several hundred feet into the reservoir rock. After the formation is fractured, a “propping agent” (usually sand carried by the high-viscosity additives) is pumped into the fractures to keep them from closing when the pumping pressure is released. Hydraulic fracturing allows the oil or natural gas to move more freely from the rock pores to a production well so that it can be brought to the surface.

EPA's Underground Injection Program (UIP) does not regulate hydraulic fracturing because the 2005 Energy Policy Act excluded hydraulic fracturing from SDWA jurisdiction. In 2004, EPA conducted a study to assess the potential for contamination of USDWs from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids by coalbed methane (CBM) wells. Based on the information collected and reviewed at the time, EPA concluded that the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids by CBM wells posed little or no threat to USDWs and additional studies were not justified.

Chesapeake Energy Video

Energy In Depth.Org Video of Oil and Gas Drilling

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, plans hearings next year to examine "unconventional extraction techniques." There is concern that about hydraulic fracturing’s effect on groundwater. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Sen. Robert Casey [D-PA] have introduced a bill during the last two congressional sessions that would subject fracturing to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Under the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (HR 2766) and Senate companion Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act (S. 1215), companies would be required to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. (Chesapeake Energy, EPA-UIP)

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