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Fracking 101

This article is more than 8 years old.

Hydraulic fracturing appears to be as controversial as it is confusing.

Since we'll be talking about the process in some detail during the show, we've put together a brief cheat-sheet for listeners to learn more about this technology.

Here's the Environmental Protection Agency's run-down on hydraulic fracturing and how it is used to extract a variety of resources including, gas, oil, geothermal energy, and water.

"The process of hydraulic fracturing begins with building the necessary site infrastructure including well construction. Production wells may be drilled in the vertical direction only or paired with horizontal or directional sections. Vertical well sections may be drilled hundreds to thousands of feet below the land surface and lateral sections may extend 1000 to 6000 feet away from the well."

Here's a gas industry video, Chesapeake Energy in this case, with an animation showing how the process works.

In 2004, the EPA conducted a study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water. You can read the study here.

It concluded, in part:

"Although potentially hazardous chemicals may be introduced into USDWs [underground source of drinking water] when fracturing fluids are injected into coal seams that lie within USDWs, the risk posed to USDWs by introduction of these chemicals is reduced significantly by groundwater production and injected fluid recovery, combined with the mitigating effects of dilution and dispersion, adsorption, and potentially biodegradation."

For more information about the controversies surrounding natural gas and fracking, check out this 60 Minutes piece that digs deeper into the "ugly stepchild" of American energy debate.

This program aired on June 10, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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