And if you do not believe me, then go to the links below and read what they say.
As for what I think:
Hydraulic Fracturing is a drilling process that drills oil and gas wells into shale formations and produces what is referred to as “ tight petroleum fluids”. Principally oil and methane. This process begins by drilling a typical vertical well. The drill bit is then turned to drill horizontally and moves as far as 3 miles. Then the well is cased with concrete and a slurry of liquids are prepared. We will come back to that discussion in a bit because the fluids pumped into the bore hole are very special. Once the drill is extracted it is replaced with special pipe that is flexible enough to make the turn and has holes in it which are temporarily plugged with ping pong ball like ball bearings. Once that is done, the fluids are piped down the well under extremely high pressure. These fluids blast the bearings out of the way and the fluids escape from the pipe and pulverizes the surrounding rock. Then the danger of fracking begins. Because of the physics of pressure, the fluids which are now in front of the flow of the oil and methane burst back to the surface and must be contained. After that the dangers only grow. These risks include: Pollution risks, Health risks, Death risks and Financial risks.
The health risks are many. The groundwater risks arise from the fracking itself and the type fluids used. The fluids are extremely toxic. While I can”t say what exactly are in the fluids because the drilling companies refuse to release them, everyone admits that toxics like diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid, silica, and antifreeze are involved. For a list of the thousand of chemical used please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_additives_for_hydraulic_fracturing . Will the fluids remain in the area fracked and will the oil and gas flow towards the well head if other avenues are available? This is something no one can guarantee. If even small amounts of the fracking fluids do not return through the bore hole then ground water contamination is possible and well water contamination is all but guaranteed. Surface contamination comes in the form of produced water contamination on the ground and in the nearby waterways. Many wild catters want to just dump those waters in waste pits or worse yet dump them in larger stream and rivers. Even tank storage is problematic. Transportation to a disposal site risks many types of accidents. I believe that all these fluids should be recycled. They contain radioactive materials, heavy metals and poisons like arsenic. Finally there is air pollution. This come in the form of methane and benzene. Many wild catters want to flare the methane and only deal with the oil. This guarantees that methane will be released and methane is one of the most potent green gases around. Exposure to benzene can be lethal as will be discussed later and will lead to lung damage and many cancers.
Some of the health risks were discussed above but there are a set of studies to be considered. You can find these studies easily online but in their gist they ask the question, “Are children in fracking zones healthy”? The answer is NO. In general children that live within a ten mile area of fracked wells have many more health problems than children that live farther away. Please see this list for a discussion of benzene on human health – http://www.allenstewart.com/practice-areas/gas-property-damage/chemicals-used-in-fracking/ If that is true then how healthy can the adults be? But fracking is so new that it is hard to tell. I know in my heart that taking that plunge over that cliff is not worth the danger. We need to stop now.
Then there are risks of death to the nearby humans. Is that extreme? Not in the least. The increase in the large truck traffic alone and the attendant violations of trucking laws will destroy roads and lead to a large increase in traffic accidents leading to increases in deaths. And of course there will be deaths directly relating to the increase in drilling activity. Drilling for oil is inherently dangerous and the industry has its own mortality rate. We have already seen large numbers of deaths due to train wrecks involving trains pulling tanker cars holding fracked oil. Because of the trapped gases in fracked oil it is a lot more explosive. Who wants to die a fiery death? While pipeline leaks could have been discussed anywhere, the problems of pipelining unconventional oil are clear. Since the oil must be heated under pressure to physically move through a pipeline, any leak means the oil cools rapidly and latches on to anything in its path. Especially if it falls into water it will not float and it must be dug out of the bottom. Wherever it lands it begins to release its toxic chemicals including the ever present benzene. While no deaths have yet occurred, fracking possess the possibility of causing major calamities. The first are earthquakes. Today there is no doubt that fracking can cause earthquakes. The questions is when will they cause a major one? So far no earthquake caused by fracking has been greater than a 4.5 earthquake, so we continue to pray they stay small. Then there is the question of Bhopal On The Prairie. This was not a concern of mine but many people who live near old coal mines raised it with me at events I attended. They said, “What if they frack near an old coal mine or an old uncapped oil well” both of which Illinois has in abundance? Well the answer is, all the stuff that should go up the nrw well bore hole will spew out into the general environment. If you are anywhere near that the methane will kill you. This is unlikely but just one incident could kill many people.
Ever wonder why oil men refer to their business as a “Boom and Bust” business? It is because of their Financial Risks. These risks are not limited to the investors and the drillers themselves. First and foremost any property owners near these wells will see their property values go to zero and if you hold a mortgage on any such property you will be in debt for a worthless property. There is also a growing push to send the fracked oil and its refined products overseas. This means that oil prices will rise and the cost of gasoline will follow along. But ultimately it is the case that wildcat fracking is a Ponzi Scheme and that costs investors the most money. Small drillers raise money well by well but when the first one “comes in” they divert some of the profits to the next well which enriches themselves. Because fracked wells have such a short life expectancy (possibly as short as 3 years) eventually the level of those losing money on their investments climb and the driller declares bankruptcy leaving those newest investors holding huge losses. Not only that but it leaves the State of Illinois and individual property owners holding the bag for any damages that remains. This also leads to market manipulation on insider information because the upcoming bankruptcies are an open secret in the oil and gas industry itself.
I must end with a plea for Illinois to stop this. Fracking is nothing but a case of gluttony gone wild. These are not resources we need to exploit now. We could leave these resources for future generations that may need them. But in our general lust for fatter and fatter energy girths we will be looked on by future generations with mortification. Again, shame on everyone in Illinois.
Go there and read. More next week in a more timely fashion,