The process of hydraulic fracturing

February 19, 2010

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THE GLOBE’S Feb. 7 editorial “A fracking quandary for EPA’’ included several misleading statements regarding an oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing has been in use for more than 60 years and has been deployed more than a million times without contaminating drinking water. This is possible for a few reasons. Energy-producing states heavily regulate the practice, employing teams of qualified professionals that monitor, inspect, and enforce state law to ensure the public’s safety. In addition, the fracturing of these wells occurs 6,000 to 9,000 feet below our feet and thousands of layers of impermeable rock. For perspective, the aquifers that contain our potable drinking water tend to reside at between 50 and 300 feet below ground.

Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling technique that pumps a combination of water, sand, and other commonly used additives under high pressure into a gas well, enabling natural gas to be produced from formations that would otherwise remain locked away. The fluids used in the process are virtually entirely composed of water and sand, and the other 0.5 percent are ingredients found in swimming pool cleaner, candy, laxatives, and many other household items.

Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency has never been tasked with regulating hydraulic fracturing. There is no credible or compelling reason to add another layer of bureaucracy to a process that state regulators are carrying out in a timely, fair, and responsible manner.

Thomas Pyle
Institute for Energy Research

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