What do we know—and not know—about fracking?

Fracking is in the headlines a lot these days, and everyone has an opinion about it. But how much do we really know for certain about the oil and gas extraction technique and its health effects? And how do we find out the truth among all the shouted opinions? To help cut through the static, several scientists have put together a multidisciplinary session on fracking and health at the meeting of The Geological Society of America (GSA) in Denver on Sunday.

"There is so much perceived information on in the media, with so little of it based on real science and actual data," says Thomas Darrah, a medical geologist at Ohio State University and one of the conveners of the GSA Pardee Keynote Session, "Energy and Health: The Emergence of Medical Geology in Response to the Shale Gas Boom."

"Fracking has moved so quickly, and the research community is playing catch up on water, air, and issues," said Robert Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University who will present his research this Sunday. "The goal is to present a state of the science for researchers and the public."

The afternoon keynote session is designed to cover a lot of ground. It will start with the geologists, hydrologists, and air-quality experts who are studying the chemistry and the physical properties of fracking in the ground, water, and air. Then the session veers into territory not often covered at a geological meeting, with talks by toxicologists, researchers in occupational medicine, and epidemiologists.

"This session includes people who would normally not be anywhere near a GSA conference," said Darrah. "The idea is that we end the session by having the geoscience community interact with a group of people who are looking at health data sets: epidemiologists. That way we can put people working on the other end of the equation in the same room." Included in the eleven scheduled presentations, and at the medical end of the equation, is a talk titled "Public Health Implications of Hydraulic Fracturing," by David O. Carpenter of the University of Albany's School of Public Health, and another, "Energy and Health: The Emergence of Medical Geology in Response to the Shale Gas Boom: An Occupational and Environmental Medicine Perspective," to be delivered by Theodore F. Them of Guthrie Clinic Ltd.

For his part, Darrah will be presenting a talk about his work, "Understanding In-House Exposures to Natural Gas and Metal-Rich Aerosols from Groundwater within an Unconventional Energy Basin."

There are two additional presentations on the air-quality issues of fracking, which is perhaps the topic the public knows the least about. Gabrielle Petron of the University of Colorado and NOAA will be talking about outdoor air emissions from activities, and researcher Lisa M. Mackenzie of the University of Colorado will talk about work evaluating specific health risks from exposure to drilling in Garfield County, Colorado.

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Citation: What do we know—and not know—about fracking? (2013, October 27) retrieved 23 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-10-knowand-knowabout-fracking.html
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Oct 27, 2013
Fraking has been in use since the '60's. What is new is the introduction of horizontal drilling which allows a much larger volume of substrate to be fracked with 1 treatment. The second is the use of propends fine sand or ceramic pieces, pumped into the formation with the fraking fluid. In order to be effective, the propends must remain suspended in the gelled fluid during the fraking process.

In the development of the fraking fluid I was involved with, a non-toxic, totally biodegradable gelling agent was chosen. This fluid is used in very specific formations. Other gelling agents, whose toxicity and biodegradability differ from the one I am familiar with, are used for other types of formations.
So, the environmental impact of the fraking fluid depends upon the manufacturer and specific gelling agent et al used. One regulation is NOT applicable to all unless, of course, the goal is to ban all fraking to minimize the use of fossil fuels in order to "save sic the Earth".

Oct 27, 2013
So, the environmental impact of the fraking fluid depends upon the manufacturer and specific gelling agent et al used
No, the environmental impact depends wholly on whether the fracking material gets into the environment. Contamination comes from leaky casings and surface spills and not from depth.

Oct 28, 2013
beer, people, our beer is in danger!

No investment in fracking is worth the risk of compromising the quality of our holiest water. Apart from that also some minor issues like the contamination of drinking water, earthquakes and poisoning of our environment should put in some weight against shale gas.

Anyhow, bottomline is, you just don't frack with beer, seriously, you don't.

Oct 28, 2013
wells around fracking sites are full of methane
Only what escapes through leaky well casings, a problem which is being addressed. Fracking does not force contaminants into the enviironment from miles below ground.
And the methane is in depth or not? Actually the fracking watter washes out all these radioactive elements, arsenic and similar stuffs into ground water. It's governmentally organized poisoning of nation. And the scientists are covering it.
Scientists and govt are covering nothing.

"Scientists at Duke University detected elevated levels of methane, ethane and propane in groundwater samples near active fracking sites... the problem could be solved with better-designed casings. "We think there's a well-integrity problem in this part of the Marcellus," says Robert Jackson, a professor at Duke and lead author on the paper describing the findings. "And well problems are relatively easily fixed."

Oct 28, 2013
Some perspective:

"new study, small earthquakes are more common than expected near wells that are used for injecting waste fluids from fracking, as well as from other processes, including oil extraction and geothermal energy production... Human activities have been triggering earthquakes for decades. One of the earliest known examples came in the 1930s, when the Hoover Dam filled Lake Mead...

"the media often frightens the public... On the flip side, there were more than 100 high-volume wells in the area that were not associated with any earthquakes during the same two-year period"

"There are more than 40,000 wastewater disposal wells across the United States and more coming online every day, McGarr said. Understanding why some of them sometimes trigger quakes will be useful information..."


"The Zipingpu Dam is 5.5 kilometers away from the epicenter of the Sichuan quake, a 7.9 magnitude temblor. It killed about 80,000 people."

-Why dont you complain about that?

Oct 28, 2013
Lets not forget the environmental legacy rossi intends to leave

"Nickel Miners Face Increased Risk of Cancer

Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a major global environmental problem which affects the quality of both surface and ground waters. The influx of untreated acid mine drainage into streams can severely degrade both habitat and water quality... Elevated concentrations of sulphate, high conductivity and TDS were observed indicating the presence of AMD. An increase in sulphate concentration, TDS and Conductivity levels for the Community Rivers was observed. This was caused by the water flowing from the nickel mine. The quality of the natural river water was grossly affected."

-Obviously, scientists and govts and rossi are covering this up as well.

Oct 28, 2013
Well, this is exactly what it does. The miles below ground contain water, which raises across newly created pores and extracts the arsenic and radone from rocks
You should refrain from posting propaganda as it diminishes your credibility.

"New research from the National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, has found that fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process (often called "fracking") did not contaminate drinking water aquifers. As reported by the Associated Press:

"Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface, but were not detected in a monitoring zone 3,000 feet higher. That means the potentiallydangerous substances stayed about a mile away from drinking water supplies."

-Contamination comes from surface spills and leaky well casings which are remediable.

Oct 28, 2013
http://www.npr.org/2013/07/11/200515289/wastewater-wells-geothermal-power-triggering-earthquakes. Like I've said, I've hundreds of quotes like these...
...And they are ALL caused by 1) leaky well casings and 2) surface spills. I can repeat this hundreds of times if you like.

Oct 28, 2013
Per your link

"State's laws offer little shale drilling protection to archaeological sites... "There is a drill rig and catchment basin sitting on half the village... "A bulldozer can destroy 9,000 years of history in 15 minutes,"

-Shocking. Refusal to enact proper permitting laws is endemic to the process of fracking. We can see frackers at work all over.

"developers using heavy machinery tore down a 20ft (6m) tall pyramid at one of Peru's oldest archaeological sites, cultural officials have said."

"CalTrans has advised the Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians, the Willits bypass project construction destroyed a protected archaeological and cultural site this summer."

"Buddhas of Bamiyan (or Bamiwam), two standing Buddha statues carved into a cliff in central Afghanistan, built in 507 and 554. Destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban"

-Obviously if cold fusion was here, such desecration would be prevented.

Oct 28, 2013
One drill can be safe, the another one just few kilometers apart could destroy all drinking water sources
Now as I am pretty sure that you know about as much about geology as you do maths, I will assume that you are guessing here. And so I will defer to experts which I cited.
Vertical well only accesses the thickness of the rock layer, typically 50–300 feet
Are you being intentionally deceptive?? These dimensions were the span vertically through a target layer, as opposed to drilling horizontally through it.

"The depth of most shale gas deposits drilled is between 6,000 and 10,000 feet – water aquifers exist at an average depth of 500 feet."
Nope, you cannot find arsenic and/or radon in surface spills.
Sure they do. Material forced to the surface which spills onto the ground, may contain these things, and seep into water tables. But most I would think comes from leaky casings.

Oct 28, 2013
One 2011 study identified 632 chemicals used in natural gas operations. Only 353 of these are well-described in the scientific literature. The study indicated possible long-term health effects that might not appear immediately. My question rather is, why so many chemicals? It's evident, whatever industrial waste (pesticides, heavy metal diluted waste etc.) could be used as a fracking fluid today. You'll get payed for pumping of waste into underground - and no one can say a shit about it - because it's just your "production secrecy"..
Yes I believe that 2 of them are ice cream and snot. I can see that snot might be a significant environmental concern, but then bat snot exists in prodigious quantities around the world and no one seems to be too upset about that. They make soup out of bird nest snot did you know it?

Oct 28, 2013
"Bat droppings (guano) are very dangerous to humans. They looks similar to mouse droppings, but when touched they break apart into a powdery substance. This powder then becomes airborne, and once inhaled it can cause a terrible respiratory disease called Histoplasmosis.
Histoplasmosis is the most severe danger of bat droppings, but disease is not the only risk. It has a unique smell to it which over time will permeate a structure. Also, guano and urine will cause staining and contamination of walls, ceilings, and insulation.

"Our wildlife removal services include getting rid of bats and also cleanup of bat droppings and contamination. We have protective clothing and respiratory devices that enable our technicians to do this work safely, with minimal exposure to airborne disease. We have done clean-up jobs where the guano was up to our knees"

Nov 02, 2013
And what is the major impact of fracking? One not discussed:

Creation of faults and fissures on the surface, then removing insuluables with the holy solvent Water, from underneath. Yet no one has prophesized about Earthquakes (reported in news-not Journals) or the effect of destroying the Element of Earth called bedrock.

If they rend for soil erosion, how much more should they for bedrock erosion?

Surely this is madness!

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