Does fracking contaminate groundwater? What happens to fracking fluid after it is used?
While development includes challenges, hydraulic fracturing technology has a strong environmental track record and is conducted under close supervision by state, local and federal regulators. Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) have confirmed no direct link between hydraulic fracturing operations and groundwater contamination.
When the GWPC studied hydraulic fracturing, they found one complaint in the more than 10,000 coalbed methane wells reviewed—an Alabama well with problems unrelated to fracturing, according to the EPA. The EPA also initiated its own study and found no significant environmental risks as a result of proper hydraulic fracturing. In fact, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified that she was “…not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Hydraulic fracturing wells are drilled below underground aquifers where groundwater is found. Fracking wells reach approximately 6,000 feet under the earth’s surface—almost the distance of four Empire State buildings stacked on top of each other. The industry also sets standards for 10-inch, vault-thick steel and concrete casing, or shielding, for the explicit purpose of protecting groundwater. The primary method used for protecting groundwater during drilling operations consists of drilling the wellbore through the groundwater aquifers, immediately installing the steel pipe or casing, and cementing this steel pipe into place. Additional protection is offered by the impermeable rock formations that lie between the oil and natural gas formations and the groundwater—formations that have isolated the groundwater over millions of years.
The most important factor of wastewater management is working with state, regional and local regulators to develop a wastewater plan that ensures surface and groundwater quality. This includes establishing a water quality baseline before drilling operations are initiated. America’s oil and natural gas producers remain committed to protecting the environment and groundwater. No one is more committed to safe and responsible operations. It is what we do every day.
Water used in the hydraulic fracturing process is usually managed and disposed of in one of three ways: 1) injected in permitted disposal wells in accordance with Underground Injection Control regulations; 2) delivered to water treatment facilities depending on permitting; 3) reused/recycled.
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