Hydraulic fracturing or ”fracking” is a drilling process by which natural gas and oil are mined from the earth. Manufacturers use hydraulic fracturing to stimulate wells and recover gas from sources such as coal beds and shale gas formations underground. The process requires some of the most advanced equipment in the production business to fracture, or crack (hence “fracking”), underground rock formations, aiding the flow of oil or natural gas in areas that would otherwise not easily produce resources. The natural gas and oil industry has been using hydraulic fracturing since the 1940s. Today hydraulic fracking is one of the primary ways manufacturers retrieve natural gas. Fracking is performed in nine out of ten of the country’s natural gas wells.
Controversy behind hydraulic fracking centers on the negative impact the process may have on groundwater. Fracking requires the mixing of numerous chemicals with sand and water to complete the fracking process. The Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns that some of these chemicals could contaminate drinking water and has launched an investigation into the issue. A report conducted by Cornell University concluded that hydraulic fracturing could potentially be worse for the environment than coal.
A bill passed by the Texas Senate in May 2011 requires oil and gas operators in the state to disclose the chemicals used in fracking on a website maintained by the Groundwater Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Operators must also file a list of chemicals used with the Railroad Commission of Texas.
Does Fracking cause earthquakes? Read our explainer here.