Hydraulic fracturing is used to extract natural gas from unconventional reservoirs and because of this has advanced the natural gas industry. For the last fifty years the United States has obtained more and more of its energy from natural gas. In fact, according to the US EIA, it accounts for 27% of the electricity generation in the US.
The fracturing occurs when ‘fracking fluid’ is pumped into a well with enough pressure to create fractures in the shale deep below. This releases the natural gas, which then travels up the pipe and is collected around the well site in storage tanks.
So why is it frowned upon? Fracking fluids and water flow back to the surface carrying native chemicals and elements from the surrounding rock and clay formations. But because of the fracturing, these chemicals and element ratios can get into the groundwater surrounding the fracked site, causing contamination.
Although many of these negative impacts are known, the EPA is undertaking a study to investigate concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing and to discover other potential effects. Some of what they’re investigating includes stress on surface water and groundwater supplies, contamination of drinking water, and air pollution (including the release of VOCs).