Fracking and its Impact on Environment

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While many people think that fracking may be a relatively new concept to obtain just a bit more oil, but in reality fracking was first patented in 1865 by Edward A. L. Roberts with an exploding torpedo. Shortly afterwards in 1866 Roberts was givin U.S. Patent No. 59,936 that would become known as Roberts Torpedo. After lowering the torpedo and exploding it you would then then fill the borehole with water and the production of oil from wells greatly increased. Fracking as we know it today is actually called hydraulic fracturing or fracking and was developed and first used in 1947 by injecting water gelled with crude oil or kerosene pumped into the well to force cracks open and then keep then open with sand to obtain more oil. Today fracking fluids can have so many chemicals and most oil companies won’t disclose what chemicals they use which leaded to many questions being asked and concerns about what fracking is doing to the environment.

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The major concerns with fracking is the possible air quality affects, the overdrawing and pollution of water, and finally let’s take a look on how fracking is being regulated to help minimize the possible risks To begin, It has been known that the conventional oil and gas extraction process released harmful gasses into the atmosphere like methane, volatile organic compounds( VOCs), and sulfur. When you add hydraulic fracturing, however, it releases nitrogen oxides and VOCs, which can react in the presence of sunlight to form ozone. The ozone can then be linked with respiratory issues like asthma in children, make already present respiratory conditions worse, reduce lung function, and harm lung tissue. Thankfully however the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has set protocols in 2014 to limit harmful air pollution from the oil and gas industry and is only getting stricter and stricter. Water is a big part of hydraulic fracturing and end even has its own cycle defined by the EPA. It has 5 stages beginning with withdraw of water, then the chemical mixing, well injection, produced water handling, and wastewater disposal and reuse. Either way the amount of water used can very well to well, using about 1.5 million gallons to about 16 million gallons. This can become a problem during a drought when water is scarce because if oil companies are extracting groundwater or surface water when it is needed most it can affect a wide variety of people and farms. This is because the water becomes almost impossible to clean efficiently with all of the chemicals mixed into it.

The chemicals used in the fracking process is for the most part unknown because most oil companies won’t disclose what is in their fracking fluid mixture. Although there can be dozens to hundreds of chemicals used as additives we do know a few of them from the EPA’s Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States report. Like Hydrochloric Acid which is used to dissolve minerals and initiate cracks in the rock, sodium Chloride to help stabilize the clay, Ammonium Persulfate which allows a delayed break down of the gel and many many more chemicals. On top of that the disposal of the fracking fluid can lead to many environmental impacts. Most fracking fluids are either Reused or disposed of in a class 2 well, which are regulated under the Underground Injection Control Program which is a part of the Safe Drinking Water Act. While some Wastewater treatment plants do treat fracking fluid, oil companies used to use percolation pits and evaporation ponds to get rid of hydraulic fracturing wastewater disposal. Percolation pits and evaporation ponds both definitely have some issues because with a cocktail of chemicals, percolation pits may leave any solid waste behind but the water and chemicals can infiltrate the ground water where it could pollute people’s drinking water making it unusable.

The evaporation ponds are just as bad because the chemicals become airborne where they can react to other chemicals in the air. Spills can also be a big problem because massive amounts of fracking fluid is introduced into the environment can make their way to surface water sources and affect the marine organisms in the water in a very negative way, like clogging their gills or just killing them. If the spill occurs near an estuary it easily could damage an entire habitat which doesn’t just affect the aquatic life, it would affect us too. Finally, what safeguards are inplace to make sure that if something happens, that it can be dealt with properly. To begin, let’s look at Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. As it stands unless diesel is used in the fracking process Fracking is exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and from permitting and pollution control requirements of the Clean Water Act. What about the Clean Air Act? As it stands the EPA can limit some of the pollutants that are released, However, the gas and oil companies are exempt from critical requirements to monitor, assess, and to control hazardous air pollutants. Unfortunately they are also exempt from the testing, treatment and disposal of of hazardous waste as a part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. So, while there can be regulation at the state level, it will vary state to state. without a consistent comprehensive set of regulations, there’s a good chance of oil and gas companies working around what the state has in place. With the increased demand for domestic fuel supplies, fracking has made it possible to obtain extra oil and natural gas from oil wells.

Fracking has also has made it easier for natural gas to displace dirtier coal in electricity generation. However all together fracking has raised concerns about increased air pollution from the release of methane and VOCs.The contaminated drinking water supplies associated with toxic waste disposal and spills. Also impairment of rivers and streams which could affect manny aquatic organisms. All together fracking can help meet our energy demands today, but not a lot of regulation to protect the people and animals around oil wells where fracking occurs. So, is some extra oil worth the possible risks?

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Fracking and Its Impact On Environment. (2020, Apr 22). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from
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