Besides having a really cool name, hydrofracking is a groundbreaking (literally) new way to extract natural gas. Mining in dense shale isn’t a cakewalk, however after Schlumberger Inc. and a few other companies developed hydrofracking, the process became much more physically possible.
Hydrofracking was first performed in 1947 as an experiment before being implemented commercially in 1950. By 2012, 2.5 million “frac jobs” have occurred throughout the world, with over one million of them occurring in the United States.
Contrary to regular drilling, hydrofracking actually cracks the rock underground with millions of gallons of water, releasing the gas. And they use a special liquid mixture of water and proppants to allow the gas to seep through the pores in the shale–it’s not just straight water.
Hydrofracking is actually how they’re extracting resources from the Marcellus shale in the northeastern United States. Furthermore, it’s estimated the Marcellus basin deposit holds about 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is more than some countries consume in three to four years time.
As far as the process goes, workers come in to clear out any trees and groundcover before setting up the drill rig. When that’s finished, the drill bores downward, and workers pump fracturing fluid into the wellbore to increase pressure and crack the underlying rock.
Once the rock opens, gas can freely flow out of the basin and get pumped up to the surface.
In a nutshell, that’s how hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, works.