Fracking projects drill more than more than a mile below the surface before gradually steering the bit to one side until it is heading sideways across the shale layer. Companies then fracture the rock by forcing a mixture of sand and water through the well at high pressure, opening more cracks in the rock for the gas to escape. Shale gas "is the most important energy development since the discovery of oil," Fred Julander, founder and chief executive of Denver-based gas company, Julander Energy, tells Gjelten. (NPR graphic)
Proponents of the process argue "big boost in the use of natural gas would dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil," Gjelten writes. Despite the rosy predictions of environmental improvement, some residents near fracking sites have already complained of water contamination. A hydrologist found benzene contamination in a water well in Wyoming near a fracking site and residents of Dimock, Pa., near the Marcellus shale formation have voiced similar complaints. The "FRAC Act," before Congress, would also require natural gas producers to disclose the chemicals they are using, Gjeltin reports.
You can read the entire NPR series on fracking here:
- Rediscovering Natural Gas By Hitting Rock Bottom
- Who's Looking At Natural Gas Now? Big Oil
- With Little Clout, Natural Gas Lobby Strikes Out
- Water Contamination Concerns Linger For Shale Gas