Fracking for shale gas and purifying fracking water – 105science

Fracking was once uneconomic, but today’s energy crisis has led to new options. Just as the government has issued licences to drill in the UK, so too there have been protests in the UK. This podcast wises-up on what ‘fracking’ is by looking out to the USA experience where 95% of their oil and gas wells are hydraulically fractured.

There are lots of issues around our topic … green issues, sustainability issues … but today we look at how the process works. It used to be, at least from the movies we’ve seen, that people would find oil, drill a hole and oil would gush to the surface. Using oil to power machinery started the industrial revolution. Getting oil then was relatively easy. It’s long been known that a type of rock called shale holds amounts of oil and gas. Shale is a rock formed from mud silt, clay, and organic matter. The grain of shale is fine so it’s not very permeable. To get the gas from it, it needs to be cracked open to make it permeable. That’s achieved by pumping millions of litres of water underground.

You’ll hear from Matt Bruff of Altela Incorporated when he visited Cambridge this summer. Matt works in the industry concerned with purifying the water that comes back out of the oil well. His company processes the water – as he’ll explain – letting solids settle and then desalinating the water. Click here for just the interview. Click below for the broadcast show.

There are valid objections to ‘fracking’ in our lovely countryside. As a quick list, one concern is that water used is contaminated by chemicals and picks up other substances on its way through layers of earth.
Another is that the cement pipes which protect the ground water might leak. Another is that maybe the rock fractures might make their way to the surface. Or their might be small earthquakes.
Another concern is that in having a fresh source of energy, we might take our eye off the target for developing alternative energy solutions and being frugal with our use of carbon based fuels.