Natural Gas Drilling Rigs
Introduction to Natural Gas and Radon
The process of fracking, or Hydraulic fracturing, is a way of releasing natural gas or oil from inside the Earth by drilling and then injecting very high pressure fluid into the well, deep underground to fracture shale rock, releasing the natural gas or oil. Fracking can also be used to recover crude oil petroleum, and even to release geothermal energy from very deep sources. Currently, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom have energy companies that practice fracking as part of their energy production strategies.
The first operational and economically successful natural gas fracking well was drilled in 1950. The fracking process was experimented with as early as 1947. Over 2.5 million fracking sites had been created, worldwide, for natural gas and oil wells by the year 2012, at least a million sites in the U.S. alone.
The fracking process is complex and requires some fairly advanced science to be applied carefully in order to succeed with desired results. The fracking liquid is a specific mix of water, sand, and some proprietary chemicals. It is injected into the bore of a well, usually at least a few hundred feet down, creating overwhelming pressure that causes shale rock layers to shatter. Once the shale rock is broken, it releases natural gas or petroleum back to the surface. When the high-pressure fluid is removed from the well opening, tiny clusters of the fracturing components, usually sand or aluminum oxide stays to keep the network of subterranean fractures open in the shale.
Fracking engineers study the well bore's sides to determine many characteristics particular to each fracking site. The depth level, rock density, and orientation of stress fractures are used to infer the dimensions of shale-holding natural gas sources. Seismology is employed to study micro seismic events, or tiny earthquakes, caused by the hydraulic pressure to map the height and width of a fracturing site. These micro-earthquakes have a very small magnitude level, too small to be detected at the surface, but are crucial to charting accurate maps of each site.
Fracking is a controversial practice that proponents claim benefits the economy too significantly to be stopped by its many negative side effects. They say fracking produces the extremely valuable natural gas and oil needed to make our industries strong. Opponents to fracking disagree, claiming that the impacts on the environment counter any benefits. These impacts include contaminated ground water, radon air pollution, ground surface pollution, and over-depletion of fresh water. They say all these hazards to the environment combined with threats to public health are reasons enough to ban fracking for natural gas. They also claim damaging seismic activity has taken place because of fracking's effects on once unknown tectonic fault lines.
Another related issue in fracking, is the brine solution recovered at the surface of fracking wells, sometimes contains the radioactive minerals radon, radium, uranium, and thorium. Animals and humans exposed to the radiation experience long-term effects on health. Radon in particular is well known to cause lung cancer in humans. The issue of radon is exacerbated because it is somewhat soluble in water, thus spreading the areas of contamination at the surface.