Myths about fracking
Many people have no idea that practically every well requires fracking.
April 28, 2015 By Greg Kozera
As I get to visit with people around the country on my Just the Fracks
book tour, I am learning a lot about what people think and know about
energy and hydraulic fracturing.
As I get to visit with people around the country on my Just the Fracks book tour, I am learning a lot about what people think and know about energy and hydraulic fracturing.
I have heard some incredible misconceptions. One man asked, “With all of the electricity we have, why do we still need coal and natural gas?” The poor guy had no idea we need natural gas and coal to make electricity. Sadly, he is not an exception. When asked in a survey, “Where does electricity come from?” 52 per cent of Americans responded, “The socket in the wall.”
Many people are worried about whether there will be energy for lights, air conditioning and reasonably priced gasoline. They are sometimes surprised to know that the U.S. is now the world’s leading producer of crude oil and natural gas. People in places like New Orleans and Oklahoma are worried about earthquakes caused by fracking. They weren’t aware that we are now drilling a fraction of the wells we were drilling 20 and 30 years ago.
People in many areas are worried about “fracking” because of what they have heard or read (even if they don’t know what the process is) but they love natural gas. They have no idea that practically every well requires fracking. Fracking is like tires on a car. A car is worthless without tires. A well wouldn’t be drilled if it couldn’t be fracked. Russia fracks, China fracks, OPEC fracks and, yes, even Canada fracks.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process used to improve production from an oil or gas well after it has been drilled. A fluid such as water or foam made with water and nitrogen is pumped into a well to create a small crack in rocks containing oil and/or natural gas deep underground (typically over a mile deep). This crack extends a few hundred feet in two directions from the well pipe and maybe 100 feet high. Far below our drinking water, the oil and gas flows from the reservoir rocks flows through this small crack to the well and then to the surface for us to use.
Will fracking damage our precious ground water? No. Fracking has been happening since 1947. The wells today are much better because we can drill them horizontally and frack them multiple times. One of our horizontal wells today can replace 30 or more vertical wells, minimizing environmental impact. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) in its 2013 White Paper on Water and Hydraulic Fracturing said, “The AWWA is aware of no proven cases of ground water contamination directly associated with hydraulic fracturing. An informed utility can be a key voice in ensuring that energy production and safe water coexist peacefully in the years ahead.”
People want clean air and clean water. Most people don’t know that, thanks to the expanded use of natural gas, we have lowered our CO2 emissions to Kyoto treaty levels without a carbon tax increasing the cost of electricity. This would cost every Canadian more money, not just in taxes but in increased costs of everything, and it would hurt people on fixed incomes like seniors and middle-class families. Most people don’t know that the natural gas industry has lowered global pollution by bringing industry back to the U.S. such as steel mills and chemical plants. These plants operate under U.S. environmental law instead of overseas environmental law, which is nonexistent in most countries. Reclaimed well sites and pipeline right-of-ways are creating wildlife and bird habitats while “green energy” like wind and solar is killing birds and other wildlife.
I am now convinced that if coal, oil and natural gas all went away it wouldn’t bother most people initially because they don’t know how essential these things are to their everyday lives. In the northeastern U.S., we have more than 30 coal power plants shutting down in the near future because they can’t meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new clean-air regulations. This is a big deal as these plants are running right now producing electricity. Hopefully natural gas can replace most of them but that will require pipelines. But the natural gas industry is now under attack by the EPA.
Sadly, all of the CO2 reductions the EPA is planning won’t help the planet. China already is producing twice the amount of CO2 the U.S. produces. As China expands energy use, its CO2 emissions will dwarf the EPA’s planned CO2 reductions. Maybe we need to send China natural gas.
All of this hardship that the EPA and Washington are dumping on the fossil fuel industries will actually hurt the average American and Canadian the most. If the EPA continues, we can expect our energy costs to triple or quadruple. If you doubt this, just check on what the Germans and Japanese are paying for their energy. I recently met with a Japanese group working on ways to bring more energy to Japan. They were paying four times what my family pays for electricity and my budget is $250 per month. In New York City and other large cities, bad things happen when the power goes off. How would you like to live on the 17th floor of an apartment building in New York City or Toronto when the lights go out?
Natural gas is the only fuel that can keep the lights on if coal and nuclear power cannot expand. We need to frack to produce natural gas just as we have done safely for more than 60 years. We have in excess of 100 years of natural gas in the U.S. at today’s technology. If natural gas ever goes away due to bad regulations, as some people want, bad things will happen to a lot of innocent people. We need to understand the truth. It isn’t too late to act. Thoughts to ponder.
Editor’s note: This column has been edited and condensed.
Greg Kozera is a registered professional engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering and more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry, including hydraulic fracturing. He is the author of three books, numerous articles and technical papers. His latest book, Just the Fracks, Ma’am: The truth about hydrofracking and the great American boom, is available from all online outlets. He is on the board of directors for the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and is the past president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association.
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