We’ve heard the horror stories. We’ve seen the television footage. Hydraulic fracturing is blamed for everything from contaminating our drinking water to destroying our scenic countrysides.
It’s said that a lie told long enough and loud enough is believed as truth. So pull up a chair. It’s time to debunk the myths and set the record straight on fracking.
No Frackery is more widespread or widely accepted as truth as Myth #1.
Myth #1. Fracking Makes Your Tap Water Catch Fire
Infamously portrayed in the HBO-funded 2010 documentary, Gasland, dramatic footage showed a Colorado man lighting his tap water on fire. The man placed a lighter to his running faucet. Low and behold, it flashed into flames. Whoa! Must be the result of natural gas drilling and fracking, right?
Wrong. Fact is, the methane in this man’s tap water seeped there naturally by a process called methane migration. Although Gasland failed to share this information, news reports later revealed that people could light their tap water on fire decades before fracking due to naturally occurring methane pockets in the ground.
Incidentally, there are places in the US called Burning Springs. And there are historical records of people lighting their water on fire since the 1600’s.
Myth #1, torched.
Myth #2. Fracking Contaminates Drinking Water With Dangerous Chemicals
Shale wells are over a mile deep and the bore hole is encased in continuous metal pipe. Water wells are shallow, 200 to 500 feet deep. There are thousands of feet of intervening rock between the two. Not to mention that the fracking fluid itself is too dense to ascend upward through a mile of rock.
One million fracked deep wells and no confirmed contamination of drinking water resulting from fracking. Cheers! Drink up!
Myth #3. Fracking Chemicals Are Top Secret, Proof That Drillers Are Hiding Something
Fracking fluid is 98.5% water, 1% sand, and 0.5% chemical additives. Incidentally, some of these additives are also used in making ice cream and snacks.
But these are still chemicals, right? We should avoid them, says fracking opponents. But water itself is a chemical. Coffee is comprised of a whole lot of chemicals. Everything is a chemical. Don’t be misled by bad science.
Texas became the first state to pass a law requiring full public disclosure of fracking ingredients. Numerous other states publicly post fracking information freely: Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among them – so does the Ground Water Protection Council and the U.S. Department of Energy.
This greater transparency has revealed some oddly benign ingredients used in fracking, such as instant coffee and walnut shells.
But what to with this fluid once it rises back to the surface? In Texas’s Barnett Shale, wastewater can be reinjected into impermeable rock 1.5 miles below ground. This isn’t feasible in the Marcellus Shale region; the underlying rocks are not porous enough.
Currently, several facilities in Pennsylvania are approved to treat the wastewater. More plants, specifically built for the task, are planned. In the meantime, most companies now recycle this water to drill their next well.
Myth #4. Fracking Is Using Up All Our Nation’s Water
The EPA estimates that fracking used between 70 and 140 billion gallons of water in 2011. Wow! Sounds like a lot of H2O. That is, unless you have a leaky faucet. In a year’s time, household leaks waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide.
Also putting it in perspective, Americans use 20 times more water on their lawns in a year than they do on fracking. How about a round of golf? The average water use for golf course irrigation in the U.S. was estimated to be 2,312,701 acre feet per year. That equates to approximately 2.08 billion gallons of water per day for golf course irrigation in the U.S.
Myth #5. Fracking Destroys The Landscape & Disturbs Beautiful Rural America
So not true. A well pad is three to five acres in size, depending on the drilling company. That’s it. That’s the size of a well pad. After drilling and fracking are completed, which takes a few week’s time, the land is reclaimed and the industry moves on to the next area.
All the scary photos of huge machinery and big trucks are taken during this initial process. When the well is producing, there’s little to see. Wells are small and often hidden behind hills or trees.
And here is some more good news regarding natural gas and the environment. Although our global economy is growing, greenhouse gas emissions are on the decline.
You can thank a shale producer for that.