Fracking is a commonly-heard term in northeast Ohio these days. But what exactly is this process of extracting petroleum from the earth--and why is it so controversial?
What is Fracking?:
Fracking, technically known as induced hydraulic fracturing, is a process for extracting natural gas by injecting water and chemicals deep into the ground. The pressure induced by the process causes the shale and other rock to fracture, releasing the gas. The water is then extracted underground and the natural gas is brought to the surface using a well. The fracking boom is in full swing in and around Youngstown. A seismic tremor of 4.0 on the Richter scale was reported in December, 2011, re-igniting the fracking debate.
Arguments for Fracking:
There are many arguments for promoting fracking in Ohio. Among these are:
- The process allows for small pockets of petroleum to be extracted, pockets that wouldn't be feasible using other methods.
- Fracking gives small farmers an extra source of income. Leases are often worth ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Fracking increases the supply of natural gas in Ohio and helps to keep natural gas heat affordable for Ohioans.
Arguments against Fracking:
Of course, there are also many who argue against fracking. Arguments against this practice include:
- Concern that fracking may trigger earthquakes
- Injection wells can mar the northeast Ohio landscape.
- Concern that fracking may contaminate drinking water supplies
- Concern over environmentally hazardous waste water created during fracking.
Experts Weigh In on Fracking:
- According to the National Academy of Sciences (June, 2012), only a handful of tremors have been reported in the more than 30,000 extraction sites.
- A 2012 Columbia University study found that injection wells (fracking) was most likely the cause of the December, 2011 tremor near Youngstown as well as tremors in Colorado, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The Future of Fracking in Ohio:
The debate over fracking shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Before the Ohio House currently (August, 2012) is a bill that would require oil and gas producers to submit a list of the chemicals used in their fracking operation. Currently, such information is considered proprietary.