Little has been said about the effects of fracking on the health and environment through the world’s oil production continues to increase despite the growing concerns about fossil fuel energy’s impact on the environment. In this article, we discuss some of the effects of fracking on health and the environment.
Deep underground lies stores of once inaccessible natural gas. This gas was likely formed over millions of years as layers of decaying organisms were exposed to intense heat pressure under the earth’s crust. Since the industrial revolution, our energy consumption has risen unceasingly with a majority of this energy consumption being supplied by fossil fuels like coal or natural gas.
With the help of modern horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, these deposits are being developed and produced around the world in an environmentally safe and responsible way. Hydraulic fracking increases the rate at which water, petroleum, or natural gas can be recovered from subterranean wells. Fracking also helped to revitalize local economies in some parts of the United States.
Deep beneath, there are natural gas reserves that were previously inaccessible. Over millions of years, layers of decaying creatures were exposed to extreme heat pressure beneath the earth’s crust, forming this gas. Our energy consumption has been steadily increasing since the industrial revolution, with fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas providing the majority of this energy.
These deposits are being exploited and produced in an environmentally safe and responsible manner all over the world, thanks to contemporary horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing procedures.
Hydraulic fracking accelerates the recovery of water, petroleum, and natural gas from subsurface wells. In several places in the United States, fracking has also aided in the revitalization of local businesses. The majority of those opposed to fracking are concerned about its possible environmental harm.
Fracking began as a research project in 1947 and has been in commercial use for 65 years. It is a procedure in which a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into the earth at high pressures to shatter the shale rocks and liberate the natural gas trapped therein.
According to this, the United States has over 500,000 operating natural gas wells. Hydraulic fracking produces many barrels of gas every day, but it comes at a high cost in terms of environmental, health, and safety risks.
Table of Contents
What is Fracking?
Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing, which is just one part of the larger process of unconventional oil and gas exploration. Fracking is the practice of forcing cracks in rocks and geological formations to widen further by pumping a specialized fluid into them.
Fracking is a well-established drilling technique for extracting oil, natural gas, geothermal energy, or water from the ground. Modern high-volume hydraulic fracturing is a technique for extracting natural gas or oil from shale and other “tight” rock types (in other words, impermeable rock formations that lock in oil and gas and make fossil fuel production difficult).
Large amounts of water, chemicals, and sand are blasted into these formations at high enough pressures to shatter the rock, allowing the trapped gas and oil to escape. To discharge the gas, the wells can be bored vertically or horizontally. The high-pressure combination fractures the rock, which is referred known as fracking.
From start to completion, the process takes roughly three to five days on average. The well is termed “completed” once the fracturing operation is completed, and it is now ready to safely produce American oil or natural gas for years, if not decades, to come.
Since 1947, fracking has been utilized safely in the United States. Fracking has resulted in the completion of more than 1.7 million wells in the United States, yielding more than seven billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
How Does Fracking Work?
Why is fracking so successful at extracting natural gas from the ground so that we can use it to heat our houses and cook our food? Unlike other methods of natural gas extraction, fracking allows us to dig hundreds of feet into the ground, allowing us to access shale gas deposits that were previously out of reach. Fracking is incredibly effective, and there are several reasons why it is quickly becoming a preferred method of obtaining natural gas from the ground.
- Fracking is so successful and efficient because it allows us to reach natural gas deposits thousands of feet below the surface by drilling into the ground. This implies we can inject a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals (90%, 9.5%, and 0.5%, respectively) straight and at high pressure into natural gas-bearing rocks.
- It is critical to inject the water combination into the rock at high pressures, as this is what generates the microscopic fractures in the rock. This pressure must be kept under strict control, or else a lot of things could go wrong. Once these fissures, no matter how little, have been made, the gas can flow smoothly from the natural deposit deep beneath the ground to the surface.
- The chemicals and sand that are added to the water hold open the cracks that high-pressure water creates. The fractures would quickly shut without these additions, trapping the gas and making it impossible to access.
- Fracking is carried out along the whole length of the drilled well. As a result, we can access as much natural gas as possible, making the process far more cost-effective and efficient. This implies we can access even the largest natural gas reserves without having to drill many holes in the ground.
- Fracking is extremely effective in obtaining ‘tight gas,’ as it is known. This is the gas that is trapped inside shale rock formations and thus far more difficult to extract using traditional shale gas extraction methods.
Fracking Pros and Cons
The following are the pros and cons of fracking.
Pros of Fracking
Fracking offers several advantages, which is why it has become a popular method of extracting fossil fuels in recent years.
1. Access to More Gas and Oil
We now have access to many more natural gas and oil deposits than we ever did before, thanks to fracking’s ability to reach depths than traditional extraction methods cannot. This implies we’ll have more gas and oil to cook with, heat with, and power our cars with, for example.
2. Lower Taxes
The reduction of taxes on essentials such as gas and oil is a side effect of having more gas and oil available. Petroleum for cars, as well as gas for cooking, will become more readily available and, as a result, less expensive.
Geopolitics can be a real pain in the neck. Many international connections between some of the world’s most powerful and important countries are based on who has the most access to fossil fuels.
4. Better Air Quality
Fossil fuels have long been said to be bad for the environment because of the chemicals that they release into the atmosphere aiding climate change. At least, this is true of coal. However, access to more gas may mean that we start to use more gas, and with the burning of gas, less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. This means that gas is a much cleaner fossil fuel, and, if more people start to use gas, the quality of air will start to improve.
5. Less reliance on foreign oil
Fracking helps countries to explore domestic sources of oil. As the population continues to increase, it makes more sense to look out for alternative sources of oil and gas at home rather than depending on other countries to meet local demand.
6. Plenty of Jobs
The fracking industry has already generated thousands of jobs in the recent past and is expected to generate plenty of jobs shortly. Fracking aids countries in their exploration of native oil supplies. With the growing population, it makes more sense to explore alternate oil and gas supplies at home rather than relying on other countries to supply local demand.
7. Ample Job Opportunities
Thousands of employment have already been created by the fracking business, and more are projected to be created shortly.
Cons of Fracking
However, fracking is not without its drawbacks, and there are several compelling arguments for abandoning fracking in favour of cleaner energy sources such as solar or wind. Although above we said that the general quality of air would be improved if more people used gas as opposed to coal or oil, fracking could end up leading to more pollution in general.
1. Less Focus on Renewable Energy Sources
We will halt our research into alternate alternative (and cleaner) energy sources if we are reliant on fossil fuels and have discovered a way to make them last longer. When we first realized that the world was running out of fossil fuels, we began to investigate alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower.
2. Water Pollution Is Getting Worse
Although we previously stated that more people using gas instead of coal or oil would enhance air quality, fracking could result in greater pollution overall. Fracking has been connected to a decrease in water supplies in and around places where fracking has taken place since it requires so much water (as much as 100 times what normal, traditional drilling uses to get to gas and oil deposits).
3. Droughts are becoming more common.
Because fracking requires so much more water than other methods of extracting fossil fuels from the soil, there has been an increase in the occurrence of droughts in and around locations where fracking has occurred.
4. Consistent Noise Pollution
Noise pollution is on the rise in places where fracking is taking place, in addition to an increase in water pollution. Fracking is an extremely noisy operation that takes a long time to complete. The persistent cacophony of heavy vehicles coming and leaving for days on end can have a major influence on the daily lives of those living very close to regions where fracking is taking place — as it can take place almost anywhere, even in areas that are ordinarily densely populated.
5. Toxins are spreading more widely.
Water is mixed with sand and certain chemicals to make fracking easier and more effective, but fracking companies are not required to reveal what chemicals they use in their water mix. All we know is that water is mixed with sand and certain chemicals to make fracking easier and more efficient.
Effects of Fracking on Health and Environment
Researchers are only now beginning to appreciate the breadth of the linked health impacts and costs, more than two decades after the fast rise of unconventional natural gas extraction. Environmental evidence suggests that a standard metric should be used to examine and quantify health and socioeconomic impacts. Below are the effects of fracking on Health and the Environment.
Effects of Fracking on Health
1. Water quality
One of the effects of fracking on health is its effect on water quality. Natural gas and hydraulic fracturing-related pollutants may be able to pass through fissures in the rock and into an underground drinking water supply. If a well is built incorrectly, chemicals leak from trucks or tanks, or flow back is not efficiently contained, water pollution may result.
When the water used in the hydraulic fracturing process returns to the well, this is known as flowback. The level of water contamination caused by these sources is unknown at this time. Indirect data suggests that fracking-related water contamination has an impact on health. However, direct evidence is required.
2. Air quality
One of the effects of fracking on health is its effect on air quality. Drilling sites have the potential to negatively impact local air quality in several ways. To begin with, any combustion process can release harmful compounds into the air. Excess natural gas flaring, heavy equipment activity at the well site, and the use of diesel trucks to transfer goods to and from a site, for example, can all contribute to air pollution.
Furthermore, chemicals and sand used in the hydraulic fracturing process, as well as other chemicals that come into contact with natural gas, may become airborne and have an impact on air quality.
The degree of air pollution and the possible consequences to surrounding residents are not fully understood because operators are not usually compelled to disclose the precise chemicals utilized.
3. Effects on the community
One of the effects of fracking on health is its effect on the community. The changes that come with developing and operating a drilling site can have a wide range of consequences for the community’s well-being. Some of these effects could be beneficial. A drilling operation, for example, can boost local employment rates and improve access to health care.
Drilling-related operations, as well as a big intake of a temporary workforce, might have severe consequences for a town. Increased noise, light, and traffic; increased demands on local infrastructure and resources, such as roads and hospitals; higher rates of crime and substance misuse; and changes in community character are just a few examples.
4. Exposure to flowback operations
One of the effects of fracking on health is exposure to flowback operations. Workers doing specific activities may be exposed to high quantities of volatile hydrocarbons, which can be highly hazardous, according to preliminary field investigations. Since 2010, at least four workers working in flowback operations have died as a result of exposure.
5. Silica Dust Exposure
One of the effects of fracking on health is silica dust exposure. Crystalline silica (sand) particles irritate the lungs and nasal passages severely. Chronic exposure can lead to several dangerous respiratory disorders. Lung illnesses including silicosis and irreversible lung disease can be caused by inhaling these particles. Sand, on the other hand, is an important component of fracking fluids.
6. Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace
One of the effects of fracking on health is toxic chemicals in the workplace. People who work at fracking sites face increased health risks from breathing residues of harmful chemicals or ozone. Because of their exposure, those workers will be at an increased risk of respiratory sickness and cancer.
Air pollution isn’t the only threat to human health in the environment. Even if the solvents and other substances aren’t swallowed, they can cause skin rashes and other, more significant health concerns.
7. Well Blowouts Pose a Safety Risk to Workers
One of the effects of fracking on health isis that well blowouts pose a safety risk to workers. Explosions and poisonous fumes pose serious environmental and safety risks at well sites. Aside from any potential air pollution, explosions at well sites can sometimes kill or harm personnel.
8. Exposure to Benzene and Related Chemicals
One of the effects of fracking on health is exposure to benzene and related chemicals. BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) compounds are known to cause cancer. Because such chemicals are used in fracking, they can escape into the air or groundwater. If fracking chemicals are released into the air, land, or water, they can cause serious health problems.
Effects of Fracking on the Environment
Below are some of the effects of fracking on the environment.
1. Toxic Waste Storage
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is toxic waste storage. Fracking produces highly contaminated water, which is frequently stored above ground in pits. Because of intellectual property rules, the compounds in that toxic waste aren’t often identifiable, but those that are can create a variety of health problems if the fracking waste leaks.
2. Excessive Water Use
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is excessive water use. Fracking involves the use of large amounts of water combined with a variety of synthetic chemicals. The water supply could be the same one that is used for drinking, bathing, and agriculture. The water demand can drastically deplete natural water supplies, which are important components of the environment. In locations where water is scarce, the situation is exacerbated.
3. Risk of Explosion and Fire
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is the risk of explosion and fire. Leaks of methane gas do not always occur at the well site. Water wells and even homes near well sites have been found to have leaks. Explosions produced by methane entering people’s water wells have injured at least a few people. Methane from a nearby fracking facility allegedly burst in his well shed, injuring a Texas man.
4. Well-related ozone pollution
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is ozone pollution. Wyoming’s air quality is worse than that of notoriously polluted cities like Los Angeles around some drilling sites. In one example, Wyoming recorded an ozone level of 124 parts per billion (ppb). 104 ppb and 116 ppb were also recorded at the same time. The Environmental Protection Agency deems 75 parts per billion of ozone exposure to be safe.
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is earthquakes. Fracking wastewater injection into deep oil and gas wells can generate earthquakes, albeit mild ones. Nonetheless, earthquakes can pose a threat to people’s safety. A woman was hurt in an earthquake in Oklahoma, which she claims was caused by fracking.
6. Wastewater Disposal
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is wastewater disposal. A fracking well’s tainted water must finally be disposed of. Much of this water is discharged into waste disposal wells, some of which are well-built and others that are not.
7. Smog Production
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is smog production. Fracking wells emit nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, which contribute to smog. Smog is formed as a result of these chemicals. Smog is a long-term health risk for humans.
8. Heavy Metals and Other Emissions
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is heavy metals and other emissions. Diesel-powered trucks and pumps are used at well sites. Other forms of air pollution are exacerbated by those rather unclean engines. Heavy metals and formaldehyde are also possible.
9. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is volatile organic compounds (VOC). The remaining fracking chemicals are often deposited in open pits, causing chemicals in the water to outgas. At least for those who live directly downwind of the storage pits, some of these volatile organic chemicals are likely to be harmful to inhale.
10. Contamination of Groundwater
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is the contamination of groundwater. One million pounds of polluted water can be produced by a single well. Fracking ingredients leak into the water through fissures or cracks beneath or simply porous areas of rock. The level of the water table Some of the tainted water makes its way into surface water or wells, where it is consumed by humans and animals.
11. Contamination of Wells
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is the contamination of wells. Groundwater contamination is a problem in general, but it’s especially concerning when it reaches rural families’ wells. Wells leak solvents and methane gas, making them hazardous and potentially dangerous. The health implications of ingesting little doses of several of those substances remain unknown. Other compounds, such as benzene, are known to be extremely harmful.
12. Soil Contamination from Waste Pits
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is soil contamination from waste pits. Only one of the problems with trash disposal pits is volatile organic compounds. Chemicals such as benzene and toluene are included in the waste products, and when they leak into the soil, they can be dangerous. A spill can release a considerable number of hazardous chemicals into the environment, which then drains into the topsoil.
13. Flaming Tap Water
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is flaming tap water. Fracking appears to cause a slew of water quality issues. combustible tap water could be one of the most striking of these impacts. This unusual occurrence occurs when methane or similar combustible gas seeps into groundwater and is absorbed. When the water runs out of the tap, the gas escapes and can be ignited.
14. Emissions of Methane Gas
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is the emission of methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a heat-trapping capacity twenty-five times that of carbon dioxide. As a result, a significant reduction in CO2 emissions could be countered by a minor increase in atmospheric methane.
15. Wildlife Threats
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is the threat to wildlife. Fracking activities can endanger fish and birds in a variety of ways. Streams and ponds are contaminated by fracking fluid or wastewater spills. Even non-harmful substances can induce health problems in animals exposed to them, preventing them from reproducing. Many of the chemicals used in fracking, drilling, and processing pose dangers to humans and other animals, according to a 2011 study of 632 compounds used in these processes.
16. Toxic Air Near Fracking Sites
One of the effects of fracking on the environment is toxic air nearing fracking sites. PCHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) are effective at extracting natural gas from the earth, but they are extremely poisonous. PCH levels in the air were ten times greater in Ohio than in otherwise identical portions of neighbouring Michigan with no natural gas operations, according to a test.
The following are some of the fracking statistics.
1. Fracking has resulted in the creation of over 1.7 million wells
Fracking has produced about 1.7 million wells in the United States since it began in the late 1940s. According to fracking output statistics, this number may produce up to 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and seven billion barrels of oil at the same time. Hydraulic fracturing takes three to five days to finish on average. After that, the well is ready to produce oil and natural gas in a safe and long-term manner.
2. Fracking statistics show that America’s total crude oil production nearly tripled from 2010 to 2020.
Fracking’s popularity continues to rise, thanks to its significant contribution to the energy sector. Due to increased fracking activity in the United States, total crude oil production has almost tripled in the last decade. Furthermore, according to fracking facts and figures, the country’s total use of foreign oil dropped dramatically over the same period. This indicates that the country’s ability to supply more than half of its total fuel needs has improved.
3. By 2025, a fracking prohibition may cost the United States millions of jobs, tax money, and GDP.
The real facts of fracking demonstrate that if fracking is banned, the United States might lose 19 million jobs by 2025. Tax revenues will drop by roughly $1.9 trillion at the local, state, and federal levels. Furthermore, according to projections, enacting a fracking prohibition would diminish the gross domestic product by $7.1 trillion.
4. Between 2011 and 2040, natural gas production in the United States will increase by 44%.
According to fracking statistics, the shale gas sector in the United States has been booming and is likely to develop even more in the next decades. As a result, millions of people will be able to find work. Other countries, including China, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, began to investigate the idea of benefiting from indigenous energy through shale development not long after.
5. The fracking business employs 5.6 per cent of the entire workforce in the United States.
In many states, the oil production industry’s rapid expansion has resulted in the creation of more high-paying employment and an increase in personal income. According to fracking statistics, the shale energy sector supports 9.8 million employees. Furthermore, the extensive development of natural gas reserves in the United States will assist enhance manufacturing employment by more than one million jobs by 2025.
6. By 2024, the fracking industry will be worth $68 billion.
According to statistics on fracking’s expansion, the natural gas business will be worth more than $60 billion globally by 2024. The fast depletion of traditional resources motivates investments in alternate resource discovery. The most important cause for fracking’s global expansion will be natural gas extraction. Natural gas is on the verge of experiencing significant growth in the future, thanks to its vast range of applications across industries.
7. In 2020, the number of natural gas drilling rigs fell to a new low of 68.
In the United States, fracking-related activity has recently decreased. According to statistics, the number of natural drilling rigs began to decline dramatically in mid-March 2020 as natural gas consumption plummeted. The country has its lowest number of natural gas-directed rigs ever in July, with 68. As a result, crude oil prices have plummeted. With the COVID-19 pandemic still wreaking havoc on the economy, the number of natural gas drilling rigs has been low all year.
8. Natural gas output is predicted to decrease by 2% in 2021 but then increase by the same amount in 2022.
COVID-19 responses disrupted drilling efforts, resulting in a drop in natural gas output in 2020. According to fracking figures in the United States, the country’s yearly marketed natural gas production will drop by 2% in 2021. However, in 2022, the downward trend will be reversed. According to the US IEA, the output will increase by 2%, from 95.9 billion cubic feet per day to 97.6 Bcf/d.
9. Between 2012 and 2035, capital expenditures for unconventional oil and natural gas activities are expected to total $5.1 trillion.
Given that unconventional oil and natural gas extraction is one of the key areas where government spending is directed, it appears to be a potential long-term economic activity. According to fracking statistics, capital expenditures in this sector will top $5 trillion over the next two decades. Unconventional natural gas activities account for more than half of this sum ($3 trillion), while unconventional oil activities account for the remaining $2.1 trillion.
10. The annual health costs of methane leakage during fracking are predicted to be $13-29 billion by 2025.
Given how quickly the oil and gas sector expands and the massive amount of harmful chemicals it releases, human health consequences can be considerable. According to certain fracking and energy estimates, the annual cost of methane leakage to human health could reach $29 billion by 2025.
24 Effects of Fracking on Health and the Environment – FAQs
Can Fracking Cause Earthquakes?
Small earthquakes (magnitudes less than 1) are purposely caused by fracking to increase permeability, but it has also been connected to larger earthquakes. In the United States, the greatest earthquake known to have been caused by hydraulic fracturing was an M4 earthquake in Texas.
Why is Fracking Bad?
Fracking is bad because it has the potential to contaminate groundwater, pollute surface water, degrade natural landscapes, and endanger wildlife.
What are the long term effects of fracking?
According to a new study, fracking has been related to premature births, high-risk pregnancies, asthma, migraine headaches, exhaustion, nasal and sinus symptoms, and skin issues in the last ten years.
Who benefits from fracking?
Consumers of energy are benefiting financially. Furthermore, increased fracking generates annual economic gains for all types of energy consumers, including commercial, industrial, and electric power consumers.
What are the alternatives to fracking?
Wind and solar electricity are now more cost-effective than fracking due to rising environmental costs. Renewable energy, such as wind and solar electricity, is clean, economical, and theoretically inexhaustible. Wind and solar electricity, unlike fracking, have no negative impact on the environment.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.