Everything you need to know about fracking

20 Cards

CURATED BY Brad Plumer

2014-04-14 23:33:42 -0400

  1. What is fracking?
  2. How does fracking work, exactly?
  3. Where is fracking taking place in the United States?
  4. How has fracking boosted US oil and gas production?
  5. How has fracking affected the US economy?
  6. Does fracking pollute the water and air?
  7. What chemicals are used in fracking?
  8. Does fracking use a lot of water?
  9. How is fracking regulated in the United States?
  10. Can fracking cause earthquakes?
  11. How much oil and gas does the US have?
  12. What do we use oil and gas for?
  13. What's the debate over US oil and gas exports?
  14. Can the US become independent from foreign oil?
  15. Will the US oil boom reduce gasoline prices?
  16. Can natural gas help tackle global warming?
  17. Do other countries use fracking?
  18. You didn't answer my question!
  19. What else should I read about fracking?
  20. How have these cards changed?
  1. Card 1 of 20

    What is fracking?

  2. Card 2 of 20

    How does fracking work, exactly?

    Using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract oil or gas from shale rock involves a number of steps. Let's walk through a basic fracking operation for natural gas in, say, the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania:

    Hydraulic_fracturing_large__1_

    ProPublica

    1) First, a "wellbore," or hole, needs to be drilled all the way down to the layer of gas-rich shale. This shale layer can sit more than 5,000 feet underground and drilling can take as long as a month. The well is lined with a steel casing to prevent the contamination of nearby groundwater.

    2) Once the drill reaches down to the shale layer, it slowly turns and begins drilling horizontally, for a mile or more along the rock.

    3) A "perforating gun" loaded with explosive charges is lowered to the bottom of the well and punctures tiny holes in the horizontal section of the casing that's deep down in the shale layer.

    4) Now comes the actual fracking, or "completion" stage: A mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is pumped into the well at extremely high pressures and goes through the tiny holes in the casing. The fluids crack open the shale rock. The sand holds those cracks open. And the chemicals help the natural gas seep out.

    5) The "flowback" stage: The water and chemicals flow back out of the well and are taken for disposal or treatment.

    6) Finally, natural gas begins flowing from the shale and up out of the well, where it's eventually shipped to consumers via pipeline. A typical well can produce gas for 20 to 40 years, pumping out thousands of cubic feet of gas each day.

    That's a very rough overview of the fracking process. There are plenty of variations, depending on the geology of the region or the technologies used. (Often other particles besides sand are used, for instance. And here's a partial listing of some of the different techniques used in North Dakota, for example.)

  3. Card 3 of 20

    Where is fracking taking place in the United States?

  4. Card 4 of 20

    How has fracking boosted US oil and gas production?

  5. Card 5 of 20

    How has fracking affected the US economy?

  6. Card 6 of 20

    Does fracking pollute the water and air?

  7. Card 7 of 20

    What chemicals are used in fracking?

  8. Card 8 of 20

    Does fracking use a lot of water?

  9. Card 9 of 20

    How is fracking regulated in the United States?

  10. Card 10 of 20

    Can fracking cause earthquakes?

  11. Card 11 of 20

    How much oil and gas does the US have?

  12. Card 12 of 20

    What do we use oil and gas for?

  13. Card 13 of 20

    What's the debate over US oil and gas exports?

  14. Card 14 of 20

    Can the US become independent from foreign oil?

  15. Card 15 of 20

    Will the US oil boom reduce gasoline prices?

  16. Card 16 of 20

    Can natural gas help tackle global warming?

  17. Card 17 of 20

    Do other countries use fracking?

  18. Card 18 of 20

    You didn't answer my question!

  19. Card 19 of 20

    What else should I read about fracking?

  20. Card 20 of 20

    How have these cards changed?

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