What the Frack is Fracking? Part 3: The Results
As promised earlier, we’ve now arrived at the final installment of our three-part series, “What the Frack is Fracking?” Part 1 dealt with what’s needed to begin fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, operations above ground before drilling begins. Part 2 went on to explain what occurs “down the hole” as the drilling starts and the fracking process is put into full operation.
We left off with the oil and gas resources that had once been trapped underground coming up the wellbore and out the wellhead to be collected or piped to appropriate locations. Excess fracking fluid, known as “flowback” liquid, also returns to the wellhead where it’s collected to then be reused, recycled or delivered to treatment facilities.
From Scarcity To Abundance
Over the last ten years, the U.S. has undergone a remarkable energy transformation whereby we’ve gone from being a major energy importer to being one of the major producers of oil and natural gas in the world. This has been due primarily to the new technologies developed for use in hydraulic fracturing. Although the process of hydraulic fracturing has been around since the 1940s, for decades it wasn’t economically feasible to pursue on any large scale.
Not until the 1990s, when discovery of the efficacy of horizontal drilling was made, did the economics involved indicate that new fracking technologies and processes could be used to a profitable degree.
Not only has hydraulic fracturing become an outstanding source of cheap energy but is now providing thousands of jobs across the country and bringing financial relief to small communities everywhere. It’s estimated that more than two million jobs are currently being supported within the hydraulic fracturing industry and that, in the next decade, that number could easily double. Cheap energy from shale, suddenly now abundant, is also helping to fuel a resurgence in manufacturing the U.S. and, for individual families, lower natural gas prices are saving typical families as much as $1000 or more per month.
What’s Down There?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there exists as much as 750-trillion cubic ft of natural gas and 24 billion barrels of oil that are hidden underground in shale rock and remain potentially recoverable. Without hydraulic fracturing, this valuable, precious resource would continue to remain out of reach.
For the first time in nearly two decades our country has again gotten to the point that it’s able to produce more fossil fuel than it imports from elsewhere. And, as an added benefit, the country’s carbon pollution footprint is the lowest it’s been in 20 years. In the last decade, no other country out there has lowered their total carbon pollution output more than we’ve done here in America.
A recent study shows that America’s hydraulic fracturing business is responsible for significant savings for consumers at the pump to the tune of billions of dollars in 2013.
Another recent study (2014), also undertaken by API, the American Petroleum Industry, revealed that the proven technologies of hydraulic fracturing, used in conjunction with horizontal well drilling, is now being employed in every single state in the U.S. and that America has now become the world’s #1 producer of natural gas. If the current trend continues, we’ll also lead the international community in oil production by 2016.
While the hydraulic fracturing of deep-seated shale rock is now being successfully accomplished all over the world, here in the United States it’s become a virtual boom. It’s brought much needed relief from our dependence on foreign oil and the high cost of energy.