Greater independence from foreign oil, job creation, a cleaner environment and a much-needed shot of economic growth is just the beginning of what hydraulic fracturing has meant to us in recent years, yet many think of fracking as the new dirty word, associated only with corporate greed.
I want to replace the unfounded fears people have about fracking with facts. This is simply too important an issue for so many people to make decisions based on misinformation.
[Having worked on every aspect of the process] as a veteran in the oil and gas industry, I would like to discuss the five biggest myths that are hobbling honest debate in the United States.
- Myth No. 1: Fracking is a drilling technique. Actually, it’s a method to improve oil and gas production from a well after it’s drilled. From there, the well is evaluated and the geology is reviewed. Production from the well — if there’s any — is monitored with an electric evaluation log that’s run on most vertical wells and is used to help decide if and how a well should be fracked. After the evaluation is complete, then and only then is the decision made to frack a well and how it should be done.
- Myth No. 2: Fracking is new. Fracking is nothing new; in 1947, the oil and gas industry discovered the method as a way of improving production in the country’s oil wells. In fact, more than 90 percent of the wells drilled in the United States have required fracking for gas and oil.
Without fracturing, we would have no significant domestic oil industry and we’d have to rely on imports for nearly 100 percent for our fuel and transportation. If this ever happens, you will think gas at $4 per gallon is cheap!
- Myth No. 3: Fracking is explosive. The original way that wells were stimulated, going back into the 1800s, involved a process known as “shooting,” wherein explosives were lowered into the well and set off, causing an explosion down the hole that would create a small cavern. Shooting was dangerous, involving a horse-drawn wagon filled with nitroglycerin, which can be very unstable. Hydraulic fracturing replaced shooting because it is safer and far more effective. Fracking is not explosive.
- Myth No. 4: Fracking causes earthquakes. According to the United States Geological Survey, the U.S. averages more than 1.3 million earthquakes exceeding a magnitude of 2.0 annually based on data gathered from 1900 to 1999. Remember, fracking didn’t begin until 1947. Earthquakes are very common and have occurred within Earth’s crust for as long as there has been a crust.
- Myth No. 5: Fracking contaminates groundwater. This is a major concern of the public — and understandably so! Clean drinking water is critical to life. However, if fracking contaminates drinking water, it would have done so long before now.
We simply cannot frack thousands of feet through solid rock. We know that rock is porous and fracturing fluids leak off into the rock and naturally induced fractures. As fluid leaks off, however, the fracture eventually quits growing in height and length, and ultimately does not reach our water sources.
(About the writer: Greg Kozera is an engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering and an environmentalist with more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He is the president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association. Kozera has worked in the field on frack crews, done the engineering designs for fracks and has managed facilities with more than 200 employees.)