Shale has been known to man since prehistoric times, but methods to mine shale have been around only for the last century and a half. However, commercial mass production boomed only in late 21st century, with oil and gas companies increasing leveraging technology to tap massive shale reserves.
Fracking is the process of recovering gas and/or oil by fracturing the shale formation. This is done by pumping in very large quantities of fluids at extremely high pressure. Typically, the fluid pumped is a mixture consisting of almost 99% water with small quantities of chemicals and propping agents that help keep the fractures open. Despite this being an effective and a potentially profitable venture, there is a stumbling block.
The amount of water used per well is astronomical. A typical frack-job consumes five million gallons, which is fifty times more than what a conventional well consumes. According to a report published by Western Resource Advocates, Colorado annually uses around 7 to 12 billion gallons of water for fracking in unconventional wells. This is more than enough to satisfy the needs of 200,000 to 300,000 people for an entire year.
Around 30% of the water used for fracking is lost in the well and never returns to the surface. What returns is deemed unfit to be channelled back to natural water sources. A common solution is to reuse/recycle it for future ventures. Depending on the usability of water it may be, in some cases, dumped in spent well bores.
However this opens up avenues for potential environmental hazard and legal issues that may arise if the fracking fluids get exposed to any fresh water sources. There have been, in fact, over 1,000 documented cases of ground water contamination in the USA alone.
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- Water Utilization
- Environmental Health and Safety
- Spill Management
- Resource Management
- Transportation Costs
- Fluid Additive Expenses
- … and more