Understanding Hydraulic Fracturing - FRACKING
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is a proven technological advancement which allows natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations. This discovery has the potential to not only dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign fuel imports, but also to significantly reduce our national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and accelerate our transition to a carbon-light environment. Simply put, deep shale gas formation development is critical to America's energy needs and economic renewal.
Experts have known for years that natural gas deposits existed in deep shale formations, but until recently the vast quantities of natural gas in these formations were not thought to be recoverable. Today, through the use of hydraulic fracturing, combined with sophisticated horizontal drilling, extraordinary amounts of deep shale natural gas from across the United States are being safely produced.
Hydraulic fracturing has been used by the natural gas and oil industry since the 1940s and has become a key element of natural gas development worldwide. In fact, regardless of whether they are vertical or horizontal wells, this process is used in nearly all natural gas and oil wells drilled in the U.S. today. When properly conducted modern hydraulic fracturing can be a safe, sophisticated, highly engineered and controlled procedure.
The following is a brief overview of the steps of fracking.
- Water, sand and additives are pumped at extremely high pressures down the wellbore.
- The liquid goes through perforated sections of the wellbore and into the surrounding formation, fracturing the rock and injecting sand or prop pants into the cracks to hold them open.
- Experts continually monitor and gauge pressures, fluids and prop pants, studying how the sand reacts when it hits the bottom of the wellbore, slowly increasing the density of sand to water as the frack progresses.
- This process may be repeated multiple times, in "stages" to reach maximum areas of the wellbore. When this is done, the wellbore is temporarily plugged between each stage to maintain the highest water pressure possible and get maximum fracturing results in the rock.
- The frack plugs are drilled or removed from the wellbore and the well is tested for results.
- The water pressure is reduced and fluids are returned up the wellbore for disposal or treatment and re-use, leaving the sand in place to prop open the cracks and allow the gas to flow.