The Northern Territory has announced that it will lift the ban on the controversial drilling process known as Fracking, and many are up in arms about it. The claim on behalf of environmentalists is that fracking is dangerous as it can contaminate drinking water, farmland, and cause earthquakes, claims that are mostly backed up by absolutely no verifiable data. This article is meant to explain the process of fracking in general terms and debunk the myths that surround its safety.
What is Fracking?
Fracking is the process of releasing natural gas and oil trapped within rocks with the use of drilling into the subsoil and releasing high-pressure water in chemicals that ultimately crack the rocks and release the gas within. This is a process that takes, on average, between 10 to 14 days, after which the chemicals and water are drained from the subsoil and disposed of safely. A new well can be active for years after fracking, and contrary to popular belief fracking is a very small part of the process as there is no on-going fracking after the initial drill. See below a video explaining the process:
Does Fracking Contaminate Drinking Water?
There is no concrete evidence to suggest that fracking poses any risk to a community’s drinking water as fracking wells generally drill over one mile below the surface while most sources of fresh water are generally no more than 300 – 1,000 feet below the surface. Moreover, the pipes used to release the water and chemicals are not only made of very resilient steel but are also encased and held in place with cement making the opportunity of a leak highly unlikely.
The widespread rumour of fracking contaminating drinking water was popularized by “Josh Fox” is his documentary “Gasland” where he showcased the dangers of fracking on a community’s drinking water by setting the water on fire as it was coming out of the faucet. This was supposedly due to high levels of methane in the water that rendered it too dangerous for human consumption. The issue was that there were reports of methane in the drinking water in the small town decades before any type of fracking ever took place, an issue brought to light by reporter “Phelim McAleer” who confronted Josh Fox in a Gasland Screening. Watch the exchange below:
Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?
In simplified terms, sometimes. There have been some tremors and earthquakes reported when a fracking site had begun its operations. Studies show that fracking can cause earthquakes by colliding with what is known and “faults” in the tectonic plates or subsoils that can generate tremors or earthquakes. The earthquakes linked to fracking activities are reported to be accountable for less than 2% of registered earthquakes, though communities with very low seismic activity saw a significant rise after fracking operations began. Experts believe that simply checking potential fracking sites for “fault lines” is the easiest way to reduce the chance of earthquakes and tremors.
Why is Fracking Worth It?
Fracking is set to significantly increase the world’s energy supply by tapping into what were once unobtainable natural sources of energy. This is set to reduce the influence of OPEC on petroleum prices and the industry at large, not only because the United States is set to have somewhat of an explosion in energy production in the coming years, but also by allowing countries to tap into their domestic energy capacities, reducing their reliance on imports. The consumer will also see the benefit when filling up at the pump, not to mention low energy prices at home brought about by low-cost oil and gas as well as the rise in alternative energy production.
The Northern Territories are tapping into their full energetic potential, and the rest of the world should follow along.
Deputy Editor, The Unshackled
Host of the Front and Center Podcast