In continuing the discussion of hydraulic fracturing or fracking from last Tuesday, the following words ring out the loudest to me (all the emphasis on numbers/words is mine):
" A typical early fracture took 750 gallons of fluid (water, gelled crude oil, or gelled kerosene) and 400 lbm of sand. By contrast, modern methods can use up to 8 million gallons of water and 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of sand. Fracking fluids can take the form of foams, gels, or slickwater combinations and often include benzene, hydrochloric acid, friction reducers, guar gum, biocides, and diesel fuel. Likewise, the hydraulic horsepower (hhp) needed to pump fracking material has risen from an average of about 75 hhp in the early days to an average of more than 1,500 hhp today, with big jobs requiring more than 10,000 hhp."
The full article, by Michael MacRae, of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) explores some of the very early history of fracking (back to 1865 in PA) is linked here:
The increase in those numbers, especially the amount of water used to frack a well is astounding: from 750 gallons to 8,000,000 gallons of water...Increasing the hydraulic horsepower from 75 to more than 10,000 hhp is a staggering increase in energy used just to pump the fracking mixture into the ground. And then, there is the issue of disposal of all that briny, chemical-filled fluid back into the earth via the over 144,000 disposal wells.
Here in CO, an organization called Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) is pushing the following message quite hard in tv/radio/print ads:
"Through environmentally safe fracking, we’re tapping into Colorado’s vast shale reserves under our state. And we’re doing it responsibly. Coloradans everywhere are starting to learn that facts about fracking. That it’s safe and been a part of the American landscape since 1947. For example, in 2012 the Colorado oil and natural gas industry supported over 110,000 high-paying jobs and generated $1.6 billion in tax revenue for things that are important – like Colorado’s public schools, parks and roads."
The italicized portion (mine) of the above quote is quite misleading. Fracking from the 1940's to the 1990's is so radically different from current fracking of shales (such as the Marcellus Shale pictured above) as to be truly considered a different process. The industry is considering fracking then and now to be the same. It is not.
Our governor may drink fracking fluid (only the "green" variety) but that is clearly such a small part of the fracking issue:
Having worked on oil rigs in Texas I saw exactly the debris the oil and gas industry left above ground. Here is an aerial view of Denver City, Texas. All those white squares are oil rigs/pads:
The debris the oil and gas industry is making below ground is not as visible. It is, however, using valuable resources (especially water) to extract fossil fuel and leaving behind chemicals. Again, I don't have an answer. Of course, we need to transition from fossil fuel to renewable resources like wind and solar.
On a positive note (My kids are always getting on me about being positive in any situation), I counseled a young woman today who is interested in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College. The first graduates of the program started by Dr. Ruth Simmons are now almost ten years post graduation. If anyone can figure it out, it'll be a Smithie. . .
Thanks, I needed that!
I welcome your input on fracking. Next week's post will be decidedly lighter! Have a good solstice Saturday, everyone, as the sun (sol) "stands still" (sistere).
Word Woman (Scientific Steph)