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Know Your Enemy
What We Know and What We Don't Know About Fracking
News articles and related literature have addressed the highly controversial hydrocarbon extraction process known as chemical fracturing or “fracking”. As noted in the recent posting to Indy Bay, on July 10, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging neighboring San Benito County’s approval of a major new oil development in the Salinas Valley Watershed. This comes on the heels of a successful action brought by both the CBD and the Sierra Club to limit the proliferation of oil and natural gas exploration utilizing this process. So, what do we know, and what don’t we know about “fracking”.
We do know that the process was first used in 1947 but the modern fracking technique, called horizontal slick water fracking, was not developed until 1988. What we may also know is that in this process the energy from the injection of highly pressurized fluid creates new channels in the rock that can increase the extraction rates and ultimately the recovery volume of hydrocarbons.
What we may not know is that the pressure required for this process is approximately 15,000 pounds per square inch and that the “slurry” mix of water contains some of the most highly toxic chemicals known to man. We may also not know that there are more than 27,000 fracking wells in the United States and each well uses between one and eight million gallons of water and between 80 and 300 tons of these highly toxic chemicals each time it is fracked.
What we know is that proponents say the use of fracking creates an economic benefit by enabling the extraction of vast amounts of formerly previously inaccessible hydrocarbons. What we don’t know is the scope of potential environmental impacts, including ground water contamination, the risks to air quality, the natural migration of gases and chemicals to the surface and the potentially serious and irreversible impacts on humans and animals. What we do know is that fracking has come under intense international scrutiny with some countries even banning the process outright. What we may not know is that our own state does not regulate this process in any meaningful or effective way.
And finally, what we know is that we live in one of the most seismically unstable areas in the entire world. What we don’t know, and cannot know without years of serious study, is how much closer to the “Big One” the use of chemical fracturing will bring us. This author would urge his friends and neighbors to learn more about this process. Some enemies are truly worth knowing.