Shale Reserves Mean Security for U.S. and Its Oil and Gas Industry
Worried about chemicals used in fracking fluid? Let's break it down for you
November 29, 2011
It's not as easy as Jed Clampett made it look in the American sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. And it hasn't been for some 60 years. American oil companies have been using hydraulic fracturing to gain access to deeper and deeper oil and gas reserves since the 1940s.
Today, all of the shallower reserves have been exploited, but the United States still has a wealth of reserves trapped in layers of shale rock. In fact, this country has enough natural gas to power itself for the next 200 years. We can access those reserves through hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."
Critics of fracking have pointed to concerns about groundwater pollution. Before you buy the sometimes sensational (and unproven) claims, let me give you a few fracking facts:
- Fracking involves drilling down to levels of as much as 10,000 to 15,000 feet, far below the aquifer, which is about 300 feet below the surface.
- Before any water, chemical, and sand mixture is used to frack the shale, a steel pipe encased in cement is laid through the well. This system ensures that the fracking mixture is delivered directly to the shale layers targeted for fracturing, 10,000 to 15,000 feet below the aquifer.
- The fracking mixture, as well as the released oil or natural gas, is then sucked back up through the protected wellbore and stored in surface reserve tanks. Some is filtered for re-use; some is disposed of at a regulated disposal center.
- The fracking mixture is 99.5 percent water, 0.5 percent chemical, and sand. Here at Breitling Oil & Gas, the chemical mix typically contains between 15 and 30 different chemicals, with an emphasis on chemicals that are considered safe for human consumption.
As in any human endeavor, there are varying levels of compliance with safety regulations and human error can occur. I believe that strict compliance to current regulations is sufficient to protect the aquifer while allowing American companies to tap into rich U.S. reserves and free the nation from its dependence on foreign sources of energy. Simply put, without deep horizontal drilling combined with multi-stage hydraulic fracking, the U.S. oil and gas industry cannot survive.