Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) makes it possible to retrieve natural gas and crude oil from the shale beds below the United States. Environmental groups have been vocally opposed to the practice, but some new research from an unlikely advocate suggests that fracking may not be as damaging to the environment as activists would like to assume.
Fracking is a lot like surgery. It used to be, when an infected appendix had to come out, surgeons would cut the patient open, remove the appendix, stitch the wound and fight infection with antibiotics. The process is much easier now, thanks to advances in laparoscopic procedures. Rather than cutting Cindy open to remover her appendix, two, sometimes three small incisions are made where a camera and instruments are inserted. Recovery time and infection rates for laparoscopic procedures are dramatically less than conventional surgery. They call this 'minimally invasive' surgery.
Fracking is 'minimally invasive' in the same way. A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that fracking is cleaner than once thought and that the fracking industry itself is implementing better pollution controls than expected.
EPA reports methane leakage from pipelines, wells and other fracking-related infrastructure are far below past estimates. In fact, despite a 40% increase in natural gas production, methane emissions have actually declined by as much as 20%. Advances in engineering allow fracking operations to locate and repair leaks quickly and effectively.
Hydraulic fracturing is fueling an energy revolution that reaches around the globe, and with methane emissions under control, the industry has proven it is serious about protecting the environment. There are other assumptions that will have to play out as environmental activists look for some reason to rain on the resource parade. But so far, fracking, and the engineers who support its infrastructure, have proven their commitment to crafting safe, reliable methods for extracting natural gas and crude oil from the American shale.