It’s not new.
Since the late 1940s over 1 million wells have been hydraulically fractured - “fracked”- in the U.S., and more than 2 million have been fracked worldwide. According to the National Petroleum Council, "95% of oil and gas wells drilled today are hydraulically fractured."
It is highly regulated.
Before a well is drilled, operators must obtain regulator-approved permits related to well design, location, spacing, operation and abandonment. Environmental permits are also required for water management and disposal, waste management and disposal, air emissions control, underground injection integrity, wildlife impact mitigation, surface disturbance mitigation and worker health and safety protections.
Fracking is a completion method, which means that it occurs after the well is constructed and the well integrity is confirmed. Not during drilling.
During drilling activities, one of the most important objectives for us is to protect groundwater. To isolate and protect freshwater zones throughout the life of the well, we design and construct new wells with multiple barriers of steel casing and cement. We closely monitor system pressures during drilling and completion activities. When drilling through freshwater zones, we use air or freshwater-based fluids to prevent water contamination. Once the well is drilled and the integrity of well is confirmed we move on to the hydraulic fracturing process.
The hydraulic fracturing process occurs thousands of feet below groundwater aquifers.
When properly and safely performed, fracking operations should not impact aquifers at all. The narrow fractures created by hydraulic fracturing do not extend upward thousands of feet into aquifers: Thousands of fracks have been measured in the Barnett and Marcellus Shale areas to determine their upward reach. While most fractures extended several hundred feet up from the horizontal portion of the well, the distances between the fractures’ highest points and the deepest aquifers were still thousands of feet apart.
Other recent studies have found no substantiated connection between fracking and groundwater contamination:
- A 2009 study by the Ground Water Protection Council, an association of state regulators, reviewed 10,000 wells and found only one water well noncompliant, which proved to be unrelated to hydraulic fracturing.
- In 2010, the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, which represents 30 state governments, confirmed that there have been no verified cases of drinking water contamination resulting from fracking operations in states where shale gas is produced.
- A 2012 University of Texas Energy Institute study found “no evidence of aquifer contamination from hydraulic fracturing… and observed no leakage from hydraulic fracturing at depth.”
Wells are drilled and constructed in a way that protects groundwater from contamination.
A well-executed drilling plan using high-quality casing and cementing operations is critical to well integrity. We hold fluids recovered from fracking in tanks or lined pits and manage them in accordance with government-approved methods to ensure safety and environmental protection.
Fracking fluid contains water, sand and common chemical additives.
The fluid injected into the ground during fracking varies in composition from well to well and is comprised of elements found in consumer products such as toothpaste, ice cream, cosmetics, household cleaners, table salt substitutes and deodorant. These chemicals are safe when properly handled and used appropriately.
Fracking fluids are unique.
Fluids are tailored to meet the specific needs of each well environment and address factors such as mineralogy, rock strength, permeability, reservoir fluid composition, pressure and temperature. ConocoPhillips supports disclosure of the chemical ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing fluids in a way that informs the public and protects proprietary industry information. We participate in FracFocus, a national chemical disclosure registry.
Fracking operations require a significant amount of water, similar to other manufacturing processes.
Water is used in countless ways to grow our food and manufacture products we use each day. Energy creation is no different.
Nonfresh or nonpotable water is used in fracking operations whenever possible.
Water for fracking may be obtained from surface water, groundwater, municipal suppliers, treated wastewater from municipal and industrial treatment facilities and recycled, produced water. In the case of groundwater, our operators are encouraged to use non-fresh water (which is not suitable for human consumption or agriculture) where feasible and possible. We are actively engaged in researching ways to use treated, recycled water during fracking whenever possible to reduce our water footprint.
It would be extremely rare for hydraulic fracturing to trigger a seismic event that could be felt at the earth's surface.
Hydraulic fracturing stimulation typically releases energy that would equate to a magnitude minus 2 or less on the logarithmic Richter scale, which cannot be detected at the surface. To put this in context, a magnitude plus 3 earthquake feels like the rumbling of a passing 18-wheel truck.