The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Furor over Fracking: Consider the Facts

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted February 24, 2010

A few days ago, two members of Congress launched an investigation into the energy development practice known as hydraulic fracturing. Reps. Henry Waxman (D - Calif.) and Edward Markey (D - Mass.) sent letters to eight hydraulic-fracturing companies to request information on the substances used in the process.

Fracking, as it's often called, forces water, sand and small amounts of chemicals--including a surfactant similar to dishwashing liquid--into oil and natural gas wells to create cracks in hard rock formations. The cracks allow the oil and natural gas to escape from the rock and flow up the wellbore.

Fracking has been used in about one million wells during the past six decades and is widely used today in shale formations, such as the Marcellus Shale which is believed to be one of the world's largest natural gas-bearing formations.

As many studies have shown--and as Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, has testified--fracking has not been linked to any documented cases of groundwater contamination. Yet, concerns over this long-standing, time-tested practice persist.

Recently Geoff Styles of the Energy Outlook blog conducted his own investigation into hydraulic fracturing. He reported his findings on his blog yesterday. As Geoff observed:

"The controversy around fracking is largely an artificial one, though that hasn't deterred Congress from holding hearings on it or introducing legislation to regulate it further at the federal level, on top of the state level where it already appears currently well-regulated...The more I learned about fracking, the more puzzled I became that it has attracted so much criticism recently."

The furor over fracking also has prompted The Oklahoman to publish an editorial, which questions the true goal of Waxman's and Markey's congressional investigation. "This could be a responsible, objective examination. Or it could be a witch hunt," the newspaper writes.

The editorial concludes with a statement that should be considered during the congressional probe. "If America is to move toward greater energy independence, natural gas is a key component. And hydraulic fracturing is a key method for making that happen."

Read other blog posts for more information about hydraulic fracturing. And a hat tip to Geoff Styles!