Modern hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is a relatively new technique that has unlocked previously unviable sources of natural gas. It involves the rapid injection of large volumes of fluids into shale formations thousands of feet below the surface to force open fractures, creating pathways for the gas to flow into the well. The recent escalation in fracking operations has already made shale formations a major source of natural gas, but the fracking process could potentially lead to groundwater contamination. This paper explores concerns over the toxic narure of fracking chemicals, the leakage of produced water and natural gas into aquifers, and the disposal of fracking wastewater. Because the fracking techniques used today developed recently, available data on the impacts of fracking is limited. Researchers have begun to evaluate the mechanisms by which groundwater contamination could occur through regional studies and probability-based risk assessments. Thus far, the greatest risks are not directly related to the actual creation of fractures; most risk for contamination comes from activities indirectly related to fracking, such as poor gas well construction and improper disposal of wastewater. These kinds of risks can be minimized through improved industrial practices. However, the development and implementation of better practices depends greatly on adequate regulations, and current laws may not suit the unique nature of fracking. With further study, the risks of fracking can be better evaluated and managed, but current data does not show fracking to be inherently dangerous to groundwater.
"Under Pressure: Hydraulic Fracturing,"
Augsburg Honors Review: Vol. 7
, Article 3.
Available at: https://idun.augsburg.edu/honors_review/vol7/iss1/3