Fracking is the procedure of boring down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is channeled at the rock to discharge the gas inside. Certain chemicals, water, and sand are inoculated at high pressure, which allows the gas to drift out to the head of the well. Geologists have alluded that this can be conducted either vertically or horizontally depending on the rock layering that can create trails in the process to release the gas and, to some extent, it can be used to prolong the existing channels (Solomon and Robert 44).
Little fracking takes place in the United Kingdom since several reserves of shale gas have been identified across the massive strips in the United Kingdom (Trainer 23). Before fracking is done, permissions must be sought from the relevant authorities, and it has been affirmed that in other countries, such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the governments have heavily opposed fracking due to its impacts to the environment. Scientists have elaborated that fracking is controversial, for instance, consistent use of fracking in the in the U.S has transformed the energy sector but it has also impacted heavily on the environment. For example, studies have confirmed that a lot of water is transported to the site, which is later unexploited, causing a considerable amount of impact to the environment (Schwabach 67).
Environmentalists have mentioned that possibly, carcinogenic chemicals used may leak and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. The paper will investigate, compare, and analyze the approaches that Russia, USA, and Saudi Arabia have employed in handling environmental contamination through fracking while highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of such approaches.
The paper will provide an overview of the current practice in the three countries. It will also discuss the impacts that fracking has on the environment. To emphasize on the magnitude of the practice on the environment, the study will elaborate current environmental statistics to affirm the importance of the study. A thorough literature review will comprise experts’ articles that have been authored by people with the requisite knowledge on the issue. This will aid in providing the evidence of the impacts of fracking to the environment and help reduce issues of approaches that are engaged by different countries. A comprehensive analysis will be integrated in the methodologies employed by the countries and recommendations will be formulated to help in addressing the issue in respect to its impact on the environment.
Impacts of Fracking to the Environment
It has been established that due to the horde of possible health and environmental impacts of fracking, the source of contamination can be complicated to people and environment (Akhtarkhavari 29). It is has been asserted that each well requires about eight million oodles of water, and up to forty thousand oodles of compounds. Moreover, the stowage of unwanted water can be positioned either one on site in an inoculation well, or in uncluttered air pools in the adjoining expanses (Clark and Grant 28). Additionally, transference of the unwanted products points to a contagion risk external to the definite well locality (Energy Policies of Iea Countries 65). Experts have concurred on the assertion that pollution of the air may go outside the immediate boring site and conveyance route since a by-product of natural gas boring is methane gas that is one of the nastiest greenhouse gas contaminants causative to climate variation (Energy Policies of Iea Countries 76).
It has been discovered that the process of fracking releases natural gas flares with methane as a composition. This gas is about twenty-five times more effective in ensnaring hotness in the air than Carbon II Oxide. A study that was carried by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observing gas shafts in Weld County projected that four percent of the methane generated by these wells is absconding into the atmosphere. The study established that the Weld County gas wells alone are equal to carbon dioxide that can be emitted by around three million cars. The same study was conducted in Russia and Saudi Arabia and revealed similar outcome.
Air contaminators are freed to the land through the numerous boring techniques, counting edifice and maneuver of the well situate, conveyance of the supplies and apparatus, and discarding of the leftover. “Pollutants comprise benzene, toluene, xylene and ethyl benzene, particulate matter and dust, ground level ozone, or smog, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and metals contained in diesel fuel combustion” (Geller 55). It is believed that contact with these contaminants causes damage to body organs, illness, skin and body cancer, disorders in the nervous component and complications imperfections during birth. It has been verified by the associated press that Wyoming’s air eminence near rural drilling sites is eviler than that of Los Angeles.
It is mentioned that the raw materials used in the process are dangerous, for example, crystalline-silica has the capability of instigating silicosis disease when inhaled by workers, this due to the fact that sand is the major ingredient used in the fracking process. Recent statistics provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety upon collecting air samples from eleven fracking sites around the U.S. supports the affirmation; the experiment found out that all the eleven sites surpassed relevant occupational health criteria for contact to respirable crystalline silica. They established that in 31 percent of the samples, silica concentrations surpassed the exposure limit by a factor of ten, which points out that despite workforces wearing appropriate respirational paraphernalia, they were not fully protected from contaminants.
It was pointed earlier the chemicals that are added and used in the penetrating mire, slurries and solutions obligatory for fracking progression are dangerous and contaminative. Evidence has confirmed that each well in U.S generates millions of gallons of poisonous fluid comprising not only the added chemicals, but other naturally rousing dangerous constituents, gooey hydrocarbons, saline water and weighty metals; similarly, this applies to drilling sites in Russia and Saudi. Environmentalists have found out that cracks shaped by the fracking course has the ability of generating subversive trails for fumes, compounds and dangerous resources that may reach the land superficial.
This statistic has been supported by the report produced by the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Geological Survey that have lately established what residents of Pavillion, Wyoming had been claiming that fracking has consistently been contaminating their groundwater. It is on record that the Environmental Protection Agency under the authority and order was forced to coerce three oil production companies working on the Fort Peck Reservation, to compensate the residents of Poplar, for water substructure outlays sustained due to penetrating pollution. Alike situation for pollution to transpire is by defective design or edifice of the epoxy resin well casings; somewhat it ensued in the BP Gulf blowout tragedy (Geenhuizen 18). Storing the unwanted water is presently under the governing dominion of states, numerous of whom have feeble to unreal strategies for shielding the environment (Benidickson 80).
Fracking is also known to be responsible for soil contamination through oil spill. It has been established that in 2011 cases of over 1000 oil spills were reported. Moreover, the “Associated Press also recently testified that the quantity of chemically tainted soil from drilling waste increased nearly 5,100 percent over the past decade, to more than 512,000 tons the previous year in USA” (Dupuy and Jorge 23). “It has also been revealed that an ExxonMobil pipeline broke leaking about 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, near Billings” (Environment and the Oecd Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises 16). Because of the case, the concerned company revealed that the pipeline had been conveying tar-sand oil from Alberta had on board a more poisonous and scarring oil category (Fitzmaurice 66). In addition, regulators were not well-versed that the conduit was carrying tar sands oil and the expose was a result of the tumble to the environment (Fitzmaurice 72).
Fracking is known to be responsible for resultant earthquakes, it has been opined that earthquakes is another problematic association with fracking procedures. Researchers across the globe have pointed out that earthquake that is instigated by the inoculation of fracking wastewater underground induces the seismic waves. However, such earthquakes normally occur at low magnitudes and their connection with the packing of millions of oodles of deadly dirty water less in easing the qualms over exploration of natural energy.
Environmentalists have established that health influences from fracking are only now being scrutinized by health professionals because this is a new occurrence. Contact to toxic chemicals even at low echelons can cause great damage to individuals because the human body is sensitive to chemical contacts. However, some of the wellbeing jeopardies from the poisons used throughout the fracking progression do not manifest themselves instantaneously, and necessitate further education of beholding into long-term healthiness things (Koivurova 24). It is important to note that despite the intricacies of the on-site mixtures of chemicals and their specific influences to wellbeing and ecological glitches involved in good fracking practices are known to cause several problems to the populace.
It has been examined by researchers where analysis of prevailing research of contact to conservative petroleum hydrocarbons in work-related sceneries, and dwellings near plants, in combination with known pollutants allied with fracking, in order to evaluate wellbeing jeopardies inhabitants present in the confines of fracking processes. It was discovered that the closer the publics to the drilling undertakings the greater the well-being perils exposed (Oecd Environmental Strategy 36). There is dire need to publish health related risks associated by fracking despite the lack of committed investigation by CDC.
Approaches to Solving the Problem
The study established that the activity enjoys major loopholes at the federal level due to a number of environmental laws. For instance, oil and gas waste is not deliberated to be dangerous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (Sands et al 65). In this case, an approach, concerned citizens have been pushing the federal government to devise stringent laws on environmental issues while calling the local representatives and urging them to close the loopholes that have not been fixed. The strength of this approach is that it makes the locals vocal in advocating for issues that affect their livelihoods, thereby exerting more pressure to the federal governments. The weakness of this approach is that it takes long for changes to be made to the existing environmental laws.
The study established that in the case of fracking, federal laws leaves most of the control to the states and each state differ in its own way. For instance, New York made a requirement that stipulated that massive fracking must be studied carefully before being let loose across the state. This made it possible for workers to have adequate time and opportunity to get involved throughout the review process before being banned in 2015. The approach here is to harmonize common positions within the states, so that states speak the same language in the fight of reducing environmental contamination through fracking. This approach has the strength of involving diverse regulatory bodies and stakeholders when revising the laws during the opinion periods. In addition, there is need to join anti fracking groups that will voice their concerns. The weakness of this approach is that a lot of consultations need to be done that consumes a lot of resources and time.
The government has also addressed the issue at the local level with the help of local activists; it has been asserted that activists are people who have the ability to change several things in the country. The study established that lawyer team of David and Helen Slottje was a perfect example of activities as they started helping communities push through bans on fracking and eventually founded the Community Environmental Defense Council in 2009. It is therefore the responsibility of the locals to initiate change through activists, in doing this it is important for the locals to push for small scale ideas in towns and other meeting points with the help of local representatives. For instance, as an initiative local groups have banned fracking in residential areas, within 5,000 feet of a school, or near parks or nature preserves in most places across the country. This approach possesses the strength of being able to communicate in specific languages and terms that the companies involved in fracking cannot find loopholes to exploit. The weakness of the approach is that it needs legal guidance services that may be expensive in the long term, this is because it is difficult for non-professionals to understand certain issues. In the light of this assertion NRDC developed the Community Fracking Defense Project, which provides legal advice at the local level.
It has been established that the best approach in Russia would be to reduce dependence of fossil fuels due to uncertainties that revolve around emission of dangerous gases, impacts on public health and environmental issues outlined above. The approaches assumed by the government of Russia fall under two categories that is, technical and policy considerations.
Technical approaches comprise avoiding the activities of fracking in areas that have scarce water and proximity to residential areas; this is similar to that of USA where local initiatives have advocated for the ban of the activities in residential areas. Experts have also elaborated that the government is in the process of providing rigorous training and provision of strict oversights to prevent oil spills and leaks in well so as to ensure that that any waste fluids and solids are disposed amicably. Gas specialists have also assisted the government in encouraging the implementation of a zero-venting and minimal flaring policy in fracking activities around the country (Subsidy Reform and Sustainable Development 77). The study has opined that this will be technically feasible and important in separating the drilling process to reduce environmental impacts of the activities to the country. In addition, the initiatives have also aimed at reducing the level of carbon dioxide on the environment, it is ascertained that the gas can react with materials used to construct a well. For example, it is known to lessen cement’s strength and upsurge its penetrability, it can also disintegrate steel, and thus inoculation wells should be designed to curtail this hazard.
The government has also engaged policy based approaches in addressing the environmental problem, it has discussed by law experts that the issues pertaining to environmental degradation should be through improving environmental governance such as setting rules for environment, climate and health protection. The government has put in place regulation such as directing full revelation of products used in the fracking process and prohibition of substances deemed harmful to the people and the environment at large. Moreover, the government is implementing very robust regulations and adheres to the best practices of the industry especially in areas of well design and cementing, in order to completely isolate the well from other strata, and especially from freshwater aquifers. The government through the approach has ensured that companies secure enough financial resources to restore the land and mitigate any possible impacts on land and water. The study has discovered that the transition of energy source use will prompt the government to design a plan to achieve this transition. According to law and environmental experts, it would comprise stringent laws and regulation to govern the industry, imposing more taxes to the activities deemed dangerous to the environment, provision of incentives to motivate the companies to re-invest certain percentages of their profits in protecting the environment.
It has been alluded that the process of fracking has pushed USA past Russia as the number one producer of natural gas, it has been indicated that it may soon reach the league of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia the industry has tolerated prevalent criticism for the process with assertions that the process consumes and contaminates large amounts of water in operation. Experts have pointed out that the operations will always be motorized by noisy, carbon-intensive diesel engines (Sustainable Development in Oecd Countries 13). However, the country has established and put in place more ecologically responsive solutions developed by major industry service providers and the government, such approaches have already made their way into the field of practice.
Impacts on air have already been handled by the Haliburton’s SandCastle; this is a gravity-fed fracking machine that runs on electricity created from solar-powered panels. This means that the dangerous gases are not released on the environment; environmentalists have pointed out that solar produced energy is considered clean and healthy on the environment.
On the assertion of water wastage, the government has advised the implementation of mobile evaporator, a movable boiler the size of semi-truck that cleanses about fifty gallons of water per minute to separate out pollutants. In addition, the cleansed water is then injected back into the water ways, Ecologix Environmental Systems is another approach and it uses air bubbles to detach out contaminating solids from the wastewater and brings them to the surface, so the sludge can be scooped up. Environment experts have accepted that the controversy may continue to be channeled to the industry, the stakeholders are taking steps, initiatives and approaches to reduce the environmental impacts.
The approaches have depicted strengths my allowing energy professionals watch the industry issues more closely and keenly, business managers are also able to perfect on the existing approaches to help them re-structure and initiate new approaches to help reduce the impacts that fracking activities have on the environment. Moreover, the approaches would ensure assessment of energy equipment procurement and consultation to help come up with materials that will minimize risks in the environment. The weakness of the approach is that it puts the initiatives in the hands of industry players without asking and integrating the opinions of the locally affected people.
The research has discovered that natural gas has the prospective of playing a greater part in USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s clean energy in yet to come years (Farmer 23). The countries have massive reserves of the natural gas that can be viable through advances of extraction using the fracking process and so responsible exploitation will offer significant monetary, energy refuge, and conservational welfares. The study therefore recommends that in future the government should work closely with the stakeholders to ensure that fracking does not interfere with public health and the environment. There is need for the government to focus its obligation under the law to provide regulation, leadership, rulemaking so as to aid in achieving the greatest conceivable fortifications for the atmosphere, aquatic and land where people live, work and play (Farmer 39). The industry should also invest in improving the scientific understanding through research, the hydraulic rupturing while making governing lucidity with respect to prevailing decrees, and making use of standing establishments where suitable to heighten wellbeing and safeguard the ecosystem (Clark and Grant 44).
It has been confirmed that fracking is an activity that does not go well with environmentalists, they have affirmed positions that the activities associated with the process of retrieving energy lead to serious contamination of the environment. The patrons of the energy business collectively with the government have retorted with tactics intended at plummeting the influences of fracking to the environs (Clark and Grant 48). The paper has elaborated how the countries like USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia have responded in mitigating the impacts, this is because it has been confirmed that USA has passed Russia in production of natural and may soon even overtake Saudi Arabia in the same. The study has established that activities and that are associated with fracking have negative impacts to the environment and therefore the government should address the problem with stringent and dedicated laws and regulations. It is the belief of many that natural resources are available in abundance but great care should be taken so as to prevent over-exploitation to their depletion and when making use of the natural resource, the surrounding environ should be put into consideration.
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