Why Shale Energy is a Hot Topic

It is almost impossible to watch the news without hearing some mention of “fracking”, oil prices, or discussions of global energy solutions. Many of the topics center around the use of shale energy, a relatively new method of extracting oil and gas from deposits trapped in shale buried deep in the Earth.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process used to get oil and gas from shale. It has been used to produce energy since the 1940’s and has allowed many countries to produce their own energy. Hydraulic fracturing has been hailed as an alternative to fossil fuels, and discussions about it usually center around the following:

  • THE PROCESS: Hydraulic wells inject water and sand into shale formations, creating fissures. Trapped resources are then freed. Steel pipes are cemented in place and used to isolate formations from resources and protect groundwater. Industry specialists design wells that protect drinking water from contamination. In addition to sand and water, some chemicals are used in the process.
  • THE RESULTS: Wells can be constructed and productive in less than 100 days. They will produce natural gas or oil for up to 40 years. An entire completed site is approximately the size of a two-car garage. Once a well is up and running, experts restore the surrounding area to its original condition. Noise, dust, and land disruption are confined to the building phase while reduced air and greenhouse emissions last for many years.
  • THE BENEFITS: Many Americans support fracking because it moves the country away from dependence on foreign oil. In addition, fracking creates jobs. Industries that specialize in producing energy from shale have responded to environmental concerns by taking strict measures to protect against gas or oil leaks. Although many countries are moving toward renewable energy, the process could take decades. Many supporters feel that fracking is a safe, economically feasible way to transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind power.

In recent years, the energy industry has begun tapping reserves of oil and gas buried within shale deep underground. Wells are dug to obtain these resources. They use a process known as fracking, and each well can produce oil and gas for decades. Energy specialists who use fracking take precautions to protect the environment.