Simply put, hydraulic fracturing is a technology used to stimulate the flow of energy from new and existing oil and gas wells.
This technology was first commercially adopted in 1948. To protect the environment around the well, it is lined with cemented steel casing. When millimeter-thick fissures are created, or even restored, the surface area of a formation exposed to the borehole increases. This provides a conductive path that connects the reservoir to the well. From there, the newly created paths allow an increased rate of which fluids are produced.
Hydraulic fracturing is a responsible way to make the most of our American energy resources while limiting environmental harm. Without hydraulic fracturing, wells that would have run dry years ago, or which never would have been productive are made viable. Experts believe 60 to 80 percent of all wells drilled in the United States in the next ten years will require fracturing to remain in operation.
Pure water, the main ingredient in fracturing fluid, makes up 99.5 percent of the mixture. Other ingredients serve a critical purpose in the fracturing process. For example, sand keeps fractures open allowing oil or natural gas to reach the well and rise to the surface for collection. Since water alone is not the most effective carrier of sand, the mixture must be made more gel-like. The most common material used for this process is guar; a bean found in many of your favorite processed foods. In addition, nitrogen gas may be added to foam the mixture for better transportation to the well. To help in the recovery process, an enzyme or oxidizer breaks the fluid back down from its gelled state to a more liquid state so it can be easily collected. Other ingredients in fracturing fluid could affect your health—if you were exposed to them in excessive quantities. Fortunately, the concentration of these elements during the hydraulic fracturing process is far below the levels necessary to pose a threat. Therefore, this is not only an environmentally conscious practice, but a health conscious practice as well.