Thinking and Writing
November 7, 2012
“Fracking causing Friction” The Marcellus shale is a sedimentary rock miles deep into the earth formed hundreds millions of years ago by river deltas. The method that could make this rock useful hasn’t been a reality until just recently. The method is hydraulic fracturing or otherwise known as “fracking”. First, the drilling starts and a crane drills vertically deep into the earth. Once it reaches the desired depth, the drill turns at a ninety-degree angle and drills horizontally. Then, the fracking begins. A fluid containing water and sand along with chemicals are injected at high pressure to break up the rock and release the gas. The idea is similar to pressure washing a driveway, for example. The high-pressured blast removes the dirt, which then could be extracted. The liquid used in hydraulic fracturing is known as fracture fluid. Fracking has created opportunities for thousands of people, stimulated the areas of drilling, made overnight millionaires, and has the potential to supply an abundance of gas for a long period of time. It sounds too good to be true, right? As expected, there are some drawbacks and possible risks. There are always possibilities of injuries to the workers, dangerous pollution issues, and the usage of previously occupied land. The tremendous amount of positivity fracking can induce greatly outweighs the negative aspects.
Scientists around the globe are endlessly searching for ways to find new forms of energy and gas; hydraulic fracturing could make a sizeable impact. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek Magazine, natural gas is at the same price as it was in 2002. In that same time span, the price of a barrel of oil has rose to five times the price it was in 2002(Lester n.pag). The drop in price of natural gas is due to the new method of hydraulic fracturing. Burning natural gas releases about half of the greenhouse gases compared to coal. Greenhouse gases hold heat within the atmosphere. If the greenhouse gases become too thick, they can hold in too much heat, which contributes to global warming. Fracking is making it not only cheaper and easier to produce energy, but safer for the environment on a larger scale.
The Marcellus Shale boom has given landowners an opportunity to lease their land to companies who plan on drilling. These leases have changed peoples’ lives drastically. Pennsylvania residents have benefited more than most. Since 2008, over 3,800 new wells have been drilled (Green n.pag). If a landowner owned 100 acres, it would be estimated they would receive just over two million dollars in royalties. These numbers depend on the wells’ success. Pennsylvania has a law that makes the minimum percent of royalty payments 12.5% of the well’s profit (Green n.pag). That price doesn’t include the upfront lease payment that could potentially reach six figures. People who have been fortunate to be part of the shale boom are being labeled “shaleionaires”.
Not only does fracking bring money to the landowners, it creates jobs. To operate each well about 62 full-time employees are required. A recent study shows that a typical well brings in roughly four million dollars in economic benefits (Green n.pag). The general area also notices a spike in economic activity. Local diners, bars and restaurants have seen large revenue increases.
Not all instances lead to pleased local citizens and economic growth. Citizens have complained about high truck trafficking and the noise output of the wells. Some noise is a small price to pay for the overall benefits from hydraulic fracturing. There are much more serious issues related to fracking and the surrounding area. Another question is the drill sites’ safety. Human error plays a huge role in all aspects of safety. At certain locations cement walls are constructed between homeowners drinking wells and the drill area. If workers cut corners, the concrete could crack and fracture fluid could