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Hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," is essential to produce oil and natural gas that is otherwise trapped in low-permeability rock formations deep underground. It significantly improves recovery by stimulating the movement of oil and natural gas. In fact, the vast majority of the country’s newly drilled wells would not produce oil or natural gas at sufficient levels without hydraulic fracturing.

We recognize there are environmental and social impacts associated with oil and natural gas exploration and production. That’s why we are working to build strong, collaborative relationships with land owners and local communities to listen and provide information. We’re also applying the latest advances in technology – developed through our own research and through partnerships within the industry – to safely and responsibly develop new oil and gas reserves energy resources.

We are committed to the consistent application of our Onshore Well Principles at every site we operate around the globe. These principles guide how we protect and respect people and the environment. We recognize that to ensure true sustainability, we must continue returning value to shareholders while helping supply the energy needed to drive the global economy, improving our environmental performance and contributing to American communities.

Read more in “Focus on Hydraulic Fracturing."

What is Fracking?

It is important to understand where fracking fits within the entire drilling and well construction/completion and production cycle of oil and natural gas activities. Fracking is not a method for drilling or constructing a well. It is a completion technique that occurs after a well is safely drilled and cased.

To reach a hydrocarbon formation thousands of feet below the surface and freshwater resources, a hole (wellbore) is drilled in successive sections through the rock layers. Once the desired length of each wellbore section has been drilled, the drilling assembly is removed and steel casing is inserted and cemented in place. As the well is constructed, layers of steel casing and cement form multiple barriers between potential groundwater resources and the hydrocarbons that will later flow inside the well. These redundant barriers are designed to protect above ground and underground sources of drinking water throughout the life of the well.

The hydraulic fracturing process involves injecting fracking fluid through perforations, under controlled pressure, to create tiny fractures in the targeted hydrocarbon formation. This permits oil or natural gas to flow to the wellbore. Only the section of casing within the hydrocarbon formation is perforated. The fracturing fluid exerts pressure against the rock, creating narrow cracks, or fractures, in the reservoir deep underground.

Once fracturing fluid injection is stopped, pressure begins to dissipate, and the fractures previously held open by the fluid pressure begin to close. Proppants then act as tiny wedges to hold open these narrow fractures creating pathways for oil, natural gas and fracturing fluids to flow more easily to the well. In wells with long sections of hydrocarbon-bearing formation, this process may be repeated multiple times.

The hydrocarbon and produced water mixture is separated at the surface, and the produced water is collected in tanks or lined pits. The produced water is reused, recycled or disposed of according to government-approved methods.

Hydraulic fracturing operations generally occur over a three- to five-day period. The entire well construction process (including hydraulic fracturing) takes about 2 or 3 months, just the start of the 20- to 30-year productive life of a typical well.

Why is Hydraulic Fracturing Important?

Since the late 1940s more than one million wells have been hydraulically fractured in the United States, and more than two million have been fracked worldwide. Up to 95% of oil and natural gas wells drilled today are fracked.

Used in conjunction with horizontal drilling – an advanced drilling technology – fracking has made it possible to develop vast resources, including tight sands, coalbed methane and shale.

Over two-thirds of U.S. gas production in 2012 came from these nontraditional resources. U.S. oil production has surged to the highest level since 1992, thanks to the innovative application of fracking and horizontal drilling on shale resources.

Is Hydraulic Fracturing Safe?

Hydraulic fracturing is a safe and proven technique that has helped develop oil and natural gas resources safely for more than 60 years. Many studies – and decades of history – indicate that oil and natural gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing, are safe when wells are properly designed, constructed and operated.