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Governments and businessmen, in their desire to continue squeezing the planet, still do not recognize the problem of "peak oil" as spills, gas flaring and other destructive practices are not enough for them, they invented a system to extract gas from stones and thus greatly increase the reserves of this, the cost nothing only the water we drink, the air we breathe, the land we cultivate, life, but that if we will continue to have cheap gas and they their pockets well full like the others.
Natural shale gas, shale gas or shale gas
Natural gas is a gas composed mainly of methane that has been extracted for centuries, although only with industrialization has it been exploited massively.
What is known as conventional natural gas exploitation consists of the following: natural gas is normally trapped in pockets of porous rock (like a sponge) under high pressure, which is enough to pierce until reaching the bag, when the bag is punctured gas flows upward because of the pressure difference. As can be seen, this gas is relatively easy to extract, it is enough to drill to the depth of the pocket, which is usually a few hundred meters underground.
Then there are those known as unconventional gases, which are characterized by being in rocks with low porosity and low permeability, which makes them in much less concentration and become more difficult to extract. These unconventional gases are of various types, we will focus on shale gas or shale gas (shale gas in English).
Shale gas is trapped in strata or layers of shale at great depth (from 400 to 5000 meters). Since the slate has a very low permeability, the gas is distributed in small pores or bubbles, many times microscopic, not connected to each other, which makes it necessary to break the slate layers to get the gas together and flow to the surface to be picked up.
The complex and expensive technique used to carry out the extraction of shale gas is known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing or fracking in English.
Horizontal hydraulic fracturing (Fracking)
Hydraulic fracturing consists of drilling vertically up to the slate layer. A steel tube is placed in this drilling, with a cement coating to protect the aquifers from the chemical additives that are later added.
Once the slate is reached, the perforation is turned horizontal, through the slate layer. This horizontal drilling has an average of a kilometer and a half in length, although it can reach up to 3 km.
Once in the slate layer, explosives are used to cause small fractures. Once these fractures are caused, thousands of tons of water are injected at very high pressure, in stages, mixed with sand and chemical additives.
This pressurized water fractures the rock, releasing the gas which, together with the water, sand and additives, returns to the surface (between 15 and 80% of the injected fluid returns).
The well fractures between 8 and 12 stages, with which the conduit undergoes very large pressure changes with the consequent danger of the cement lining breaking.
Among the chemical additives used are benzenes, xylenes, cyanides, up to about 500 chemical substances, including carcinogenic and mutagenic elements.
The return fluid also brings to the surface other substances that these layers of slate may contain. It is very common for these rocks to contain heavy metals (mercury, lead ...), as well as radon, radium or uranium, both radioactive elements that reach the surface when they were not previously there.
Some of the wonders we can expect from Fracking
Great Water Consumption
To fracture each well, an average of 9,000 to 29,000 tons of water are needed.
An average 6-well platform needs about 54,000 to 174,000 million liters of water in a single fracture.
These large amounts of water must be stored near the well, since the fracturing operation of each well lasts between 2 and 5 days and the water must be available. Most likely, this water is transported by truck or water is collected directly from the platform's surroundings.
Waste Water Management
Return fracking fluid contains the chemicals used in fracturing fluid. It also contains heavy metals, and radioactive substances such as radon, radium or uranium, which return to the surface. Millions of liters of contaminated water that they usually do in the US is inject into the subsoil and when it is not possible they are passed on to treatment plants in the area that are not usually prepared for this type of contamination.
Noise and Visual Impacts
A six-well rig requires 8-12 months of continuous drilling, day and night.
Between 4,000 and 6,000 truck trips are also required for the construction of a platform, with consequent pressure on the towns and roads near the operation.
With an average of between 1 and 3 platforms per km2, the impacts can be locally considerable and prolonged.
Impacts on the Landscape
An area of more or less one hectare must be flattened, with the consequent clearing: there must be space for 6 to 8 wells, storage ponds for waste liquids and sludge, tanks and cisterns for the storage of water and chemicals, drilling equipment, trucks, etc; to which tracks have to be built, for the trucks to arrive. Gas pipelines must also be built to bring the gas to the distribution pipelines.
We take a parenthesis to talk about the chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing. Due to the opacity that companies have carried so far, reports from the European Parliament and the Tyndall Center speak of 260 chemicals. A North American association called Dialogues on Endocrine Disruption, which studies the effects of chemical substances on health, studying the various reports issued of accidents, spills, etc. They have identified more than 360 chemicals with harmful effects on health. Among them are substances that cause cancer, toxic to the skin, eyes, digestive, respiratory, nervous systems, etc.
Cases of continuous migraines, nausea, allergies, problems in the respiratory system have been observed in people who live in areas near natural gas exploitations.
The industry insists on saying that the origin of this gas is natural, when before the arrival of fracking it did not happen. But a study by Duke University in Durham (North Carolina) published in May 2011 has shown that methane contamination in homes near wells in New York and Pennsylvania has its origin in shale gas exploitations. . The most serious case reported was that of the explosion of a house due to methane contamination of its pipes and basement in the state of Ohio in 2008, as reflected in the Report of the European Parliament published in June 2011.
Land and Surface Water Pollution
There have been cases of contamination of these in several ways:
- rupture of conduits or joints for the evacuation of wastewater in the ponds
- chemical tanker truck accidents.
- overflow of residual ponds (chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive elements) due to heavy rains, storms or floods.
Another unwanted consequence of unconventional gas extraction is the generation of small earthquakes. In May 2011, in the city of Blackpool in the north-west of England, two small earthquakes occurred that scared the population of the city. Cuadrilla Resources, the company in charge of the works, was forced to stop the exploitation until "it was demonstrated that the tremors had had to do with its activity." In mid-October, the results of the investigation carried out by the British Geological Survey came out, admitting that the epicenter of both earthquakes is in the vicinity of the company's drilling site. These small earthquakes are not very serious, but they endanger the correct cementing of the well and can lead to serious contamination.
Air pollution is another of the great problems of unconventional gas extraction. Natural gas, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, inevitably occurs during the extraction process. The gas industry speaks of shale gas as a clean fuel. The Cornell University report on this issue debunks this propaganda by assigning natural gas a higher impact than oil or coal in terms of greenhouse gases.
The best-studied case of the impact of shale gas on air quality is that of Fort Worth, a city of 750,000 in the Dallas metropolitan region. According to a 2008 Southern Methodist University study, shale gas extraction generated more smog than all cars, trucks and planes in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, a conurbation of more than 6 million people.
What can we do?
Be attentive, inform yourself and inform our peers and act, there are several cyber actions in sites such as actuable, and others, send letters to your leaders, demanding that in your locality, country, world, companies are not authorized to use these techniques, if You already suffer the effects of fracking, organize with your neighbors, protest, move seems to be little but when citizens organize and protest they have great power and we must use it if we want our children to have a habitable planet.