As explained by Spellman (203), fracking is the technique that uses pressurized fluid to break or crack hard rock layers in order to extract gas and oil trapped beneath deep the underground especially in the shale rock. The environmental impact of tracking include contamination of underground water, air pollution, fracking-induced earthquakes, methane pollution, blowouts when gases explode, mishandling of waste disposal, hydraulic fracturing of surface chemicals, migration of gases, as well as potential health effects such as cancer among others.
The Need/ Challenge
The world is in need of better alternative and economical mode of oil and gas drilling. In addition, the traditional drilling method depends on the ability of oil and gas to force fractures from the shale into the rock layer where they are trapped. This limits the ability of drilling from areas where it does not happen naturally. Fracking has made oil and gas extraction very economical but the challenge is that it causes the gradual drop in prices thus reducing the profitability of the drilling company (Madelon 77).
The main driving factors for the use of fracking in oil and gas extraction are –
- It is cheap and economical
- It enables oil and gas extraction from any source
- Consumers are seeing economic gains
- It is fast and reliable
Existing solutions: Disposal pathways
Development of disposal pathways one existing solution that is currently being used to address the environmental problems associated with fracking, especially the contamination of underground water. In this method, disposal pathways or wells are contracted through which flowback is discharged to the surface and treated before being released into the sewer system (Bamberger and Robert 89).
- It reduces the chemical contamination of sewer system
- It enhances reusability in future fracks
- It increases the cost of oil and gas extraction
- It does not completely remove chemicals from the rock layers
Proposed Solution: use of non-chemical fracking fluids
The best solution to the problem is to use fracking liquids that are free of chemical additives. The fluids currently being used contain many chemical additives such as iodine that poses great threat to environment including underground water reservoirs. This method will significant reduce the application of hazardous biocides. Good examples of non-chemical additive groups that can be used are water and bauxite (Jackson 45).
How and why it works better
In this method, pressurized non-chemical additive groups such as water and bauxite are directed into the shame to forcefully eject underground oil and gas into the rock layers. Once in the rock layers, the oil and gas can be drilled easily.
This method will require a simple modification of the existing procedures only to allow the use of non-chemical additive groups. The company implementing it can choose to use only water.
The only additional cost that will be involved is the development of new machinery that use only pressurized water. The direct cost of exiting fracking method ranges between $1.5 and $2.5 million; however, this cost will be reduced by approximately 20-30% when water is used instead of chemical additive groups.
The only critical challenge in addition this new solution is how to develop a water-reliant system. This will require much more research before the new method is fully developed.
Most companies that have developed the existing chemical additive-dependent fracking system are not willing to change. The change will render their system obsolete and thus lose their investment in the plant. Secondly, the cost of developing new system and establishing new plants is very high.
This new system has huge scale-up potential because the cost of extraction will be significantly reduced. In addition, water is easily available and its usage does not affect the environment.
Bamberger, Michelle, and Robert Oswald. The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale-Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food. 2014. Print.
Jackson, Richard. “Environmental Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing.” Environmental & Engineering Geoscience 20.4 (2014): 403-404.
Madelon Finkel. The Human and Environmental Impact of Fracking: How Fracturing Shale for Gas Affects Us and Our World: How Fracturing Shale for Gas Affects Us and Our World. ABC-CLIO. 2015. Print.
Spellman, Frank R. Environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2013. Print.