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Fracking: Techniques and experiences, risks and hazards

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing means pumping thousands of gallons of water, mixed with tons of toxic chemicals and sand, deep underground under extreme pressure to crack oil or gas bearing rock in order to set free those fossil fuel resources.

The notion of producing even more climate-toxic fossil fuels, especially with such a high-risk method like fracking, is rejected by many people worldwide. They demand the implementation of the necessary climate change targets and therefore stress the need for a quick exit from an economy based on fossil fuels and a fast development of renewable energy forms, backed by an improvement in energy efficiency.

Nevertheless, the global oil and gas industry and some governments somehow still hold on to the fossil fuel economy model, never minding the imminent climate change, the proven risks and hazards of fracking for water resources and health, the unresolved problems of getting rid of the industrial waste in an environmentally suitable fashion and the social and ecologic conflicts involved.

Learn more about fracking, fossil fuel geology, and technical developments: Fracking explained

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A seismogram

Fault activation by hydraulic fracturing in western Canada

Abstract: Hydraulic fracturing has been inferred to trigger the majority of injection-induced earthquakes in western Canada, in contrast to the midwestern United States where massive saltwater disposal is the dominant triggering mechanism. A template-based earthquake catalog from a seismically active Canadian shale play, combined with comprehensive injection data during a 4-month interval, shows that earthquakes …

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Huge banner showing three glasses w/ muddy water from different fracked counties in Pennsylvania.

Association of groundwater constituents with topography and distance to unconventional gas wells

The outcome of this large empirical evaluation of groundwater samples up and downwards from fracked UGD wells in Pennsylvania hints to possible negative impacts of UGD on water quality, thus to pathogenic effects of this production technique. Highlights Groundwater (GW) quality was associated with distance to UGD gas wells and topography. Ca, Cl, & SO4 …

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A pipe pours fracking waste into an unlined holding pond in Kern County, California. (Photo: Faces of Fracking/cc/flickr)

Potential water resource impacts of hydraulic fracturing from unconventional oil production in the Bakken shale

This study presents a critical review of potential water resource impacts due to deterministic (freshwater withdrawals and produced water management) and probabilistic events (spills due to leaking pipelines and truck accidents) related to UOP from the Bakken shale in ND. Key points: Summary of Bakken shale members and Williston basin. Water footprint and water contamination …

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A water monitoring station at a small creek in a foggy valley

Developing monitoring plans to detect spills related to natural gas production

This study sheds a light on the difficulty to detect toxic substances stemming from drilling and exploiting oil and natural gas wells. The authors suggest to place sensors, when practical, at the mouths of small watersheds where drilling activities or spill risks are present, as contaminant travel distance strongly affects concentrations in surface water systems. …

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A young girl with leukemia, wearing a hoody over her bald skull and breath protector.

Unconventional oil and gas development and risk of childhood leukemia: Assessing the evidence.

The findings of this literature review support the need for investigation into the relationship between UO&G development and risk of cancer in general and childhood leukemia in particular. Abstract The widespread distribution of unconventional oil and gas (UO&G) wells and other facilities in the United States potentially exposes millions of people to air and water …

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Dead fish on the surface of a stream.

Fracked ecology: Response of aquatic trophic structure and mercury biomagnification dynamics in the Marcellus Shale Formation

The results of this study suggest fracking has the potential to alter aquatic biodiversity and methyl mercury concentrations at the base of food webs. Abstract Unconventional natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing practices (fracking) are increasing worldwide due to global energy demands. Research has only recently begun to assess fracking impacts to surrounding environments, and …

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1000-liter-canisters with frac chemicals

Exposure to Glycol Ethers and Neurocognitive Abilities in 6-Year-Old Children: The PELAGIE Cohort Study

Glycol ethers are organic solvents which are widely used in cosmetics and cleaning agents, but also – in huge quantities – for drilling and for hydraulic fracturing. The results of this investigation suggest that prenatal exposure to glycol ethers can affect neurodevelopment, particularly the development of cognitive abilities in young people. Abstract Background: Glycol ethers …

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Natural gas production site equipment with methane leak shot with a FLIR camera.

Methane leaks from natural gas systems follow extreme distributions

Even relatively small leaks from the natural gas system can create large climate concerns because natural gas is comprised mostly of methane (CH 4 ), a gas with high global warming potential (GWP, ~34 times that of CO 2 over 100 years, ~86 times on a 20-year basis). Using a very big sample, this study …

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