Fracking - also called hydro-fracking or, officially, horizontal drilling coupled with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing - is a relatively new process of natural gas and oil extraction. Here's a step-by-step look:
A well is drilled vertically to the desired depth, then turns ninety degrees
and continues horizontally for several thousand feet into the shale believed to contain the trapped natural gas and oil.
In some states, fracking is allowed close to homes
A mix of water, sand, and various chemicals is pumped into the well at high pressure in order to create fissures in the shale through which the gas can escape.
Natural gas and oil escape through the fissures and is drawn back up the well to the surface, where it is processed, refined, and shipped to market.
Wastewater (also called "flowback water" or "produced water") returns to the surface after the fracking process is completed. This water is up to ten times saltier than the ocean and can pick up radioactive elements and toxic metals like arsenic. It needs to be stored and disposed of safely in order to keep these contaminants from polluting our air and our water
A waste water pit in PA
frackingis fundamentally different than traditional gas & oil extraction methods.
Fracking wells go thousands of feet deeper than traditional natural wells.
Fracking requires between two and five million gallons of local freshwater per well - up to 100 times more than traditional extraction methods.
Fracking utilizes "fracking fluid," a mix of water, sand, and a cocktail of toxic chemicals. While companies performing fracking have resisted disclosure of the exact contents of the fracking fluid by claiming that this information is proprietary, studies of fracking waste indicate that the fluid contains: formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, and boric acids, among hundreds of other chemical contaminants.
The amount of wastewate, or flowback, produced by fracked wells is much greater than traditional wells.