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Using Hydraulic Fracturing for Hydrocarbon Extraction - Research Paper Example

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Hydraulic fracturing is a method gas and oil extraction by producing fractures in the rock formation that results into the flow of oil or natural gas thus enhances the volumes that can be recovered. In this method, wells are often drilled vertically thousands of feet below the…
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Using Hydraulic Fracturing for hydrocarbon Extraction Hydraulic fracturing is a method gas and oil extraction by producing fractures in the rock formation that results into the flow of oil or natural gas thus enhances the volumes that can be recovered. In this method, wells are often drilled vertically thousands of feet below the surface of land and may also include horizontal directional wells going many thousands feet as well. Ideally, it is the process of pumping of a gas or liquid down a well at high pressure to fracture the nearby rocks while the fractures are held open by addition of sand to the liquid. While this process is a simple in principle, the geological differences at the well site affects the exact fracturing process hence raises both safety and efficiency concerns (Golden, John and Hannah, 998).
Hydraulic fracturing was commercially explored for the first time in Velma, Oklahoma by Halliburton in the year 1949 to extract gas from limestone deposits. Since then, there have been several technological advancements especially in 1980s that resulted to the discovery of diamond-studded drill bits and horizontal drilling. These technological advancements opened room for gas access in shale formations thus resulted into what is today known as “shale gale” (Bolonkin, Joseph and Shmuel, 234). Benefits of Hydraulic fracturing as a technology cannot be underestimated given the adverse effects of burning coal and generating nuclear energy. Research shows that Hydraulic fracturing accounts for more than 70% of the development of natural gas which will reduce cost of manufacturing and increase employment opportunities (Middleton et al, 505).Hydraulic fracturing is inevitable as well as a vital aspect of many countries energy’s policy due to its tremendous economic benefits and is estimated that the industry will employ over one million users in the US by 2025 (Middleton et al, 506). However, it is estimated that the cost of a gas well ranges between 2.5 and 3 million dollars depending on the area, local taxes, depth of formation as well as other effects of operating costs such as fresh water availability, equipment and transportation while the United States energy information estimates the costs at about 5.3 million dollars (Middleton et al, 505). This is high compared to the other methods of extraction but economical in the short run.
Despite the many benefits of Hydraulic fracturing, the process poses serious risks to the human health and quality of fresh water. One of the serious concerns of Hydraulic fracturing is the large quantities of water used. However, there are several potential sources of water used for fracturing including treated waste water, surface water, recycled water from previous fracturing and groundwater (Weinstein, 881). There are also problems of waste water management issues since water that is flawed back out of the well is toxic and not fit for human consumption. This is because it contains high concentration of toxic compounds, high biological oxygen demand and high salt concentrations, however it is possible to treat and dispose it off safely. It is also important to note that leaking drill casings, ground spills and mishandling of waste water.
Most chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing processes are classified mutagenic, toxic or carcinogenic (Weinstein, 882). Nonetheless, Hydraulic fracturing is still considered as the current technology in terms of efficiency and costs compared to conventional methods of hydrocarbon extraction. The economic benefits, ranging from job creation, stimulating investment, reducing costs of manufacturing and mitigating the adverse effects of burning coal and petroleum products are important as well. It is therefore important for researchers to develop effective ways of reducing environmental impacts of Hydraulic fracturing so that its economic benefits can be fully explored.
Works Cited
Bolonkin, Alexander, Joseph Friedlander, and Shmuel Neumann. "Innovative Unconventional Oil Extraction Technologies." Fuel Processing Technology 124.(2014): 228-242
Golden, John M., and Hannah J. Wiseman. "The Fracking Revolution: Shale Gas as A Case Study In Innovation Policy." Emory Law Journal 64.4 (2015): 955-1040
Middleton, Richard S., et al. "Shale Gas and Non-Aqueous Fracturing Fluids: Opportunities and Challenges for Supercritical CO2." Applied Energy 147. (2015): 500-509
Weinstein, Mark. "Hydraulic Fracturing In the United States and the European Union: Rethinking Regulation To Ensure The Protection Of Water Resources." Wisconsin International Law Journal 30.(2013): 881 Read More
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