What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

So it’s only used for oil and natural gas, right?

How does the process work in an oil/gas context?

Isn’t the composition of fracturing fluids a secret?

The truth is, there isn’t a single “hazardous” additive used in the fracturing process that’s hidden from public view. On the federal level, operators are bound by requirements of the Community Right-to-Know Act (passed in 1986), which mandate that detailed product information sheets be drawn up, updated, and made immediately available to first-response and emergency personnel in case of an accident on-site. More recently, an effort led by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) culminated in the creation of FracFocus.org – a searchable, nationwide database with specific well-by-well information on the additives used in the fracturing process. States themselves have also upped the ante, with no fewer than a dozen updating their regulations over the past 12 months to promote additional disclosure.

So what’s with all the controversy over “trade secrets”?

I hear a lot of talk about “shale gas.” How is that different from natural gas?

Folks say hydraulic fracturing will cause my water to catch on fire. Is that true?

Nearly 65 years of use, and not one case of groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing? How can that be possible?

Speaking of regulation: What’s this I keep hearing about a “loophole” in the law?

Does hydraulic fracturing cause earthquakes?

Isn’t there a study out there that says natural gas from shale is dirtier than coal?

No need to spend too much time on a paper that’s been debunked now by the U.S. Department of Energy, Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi , Carnegie Mellon University, and even his own colleagues on campus. But last April, two professors from Cornell made quite a stir by releasing a study that suggested natural gas from shale scored worse on greenhouse gases than coal.

If you’re interested in a point-by-point rebuttal of the study, click here. And if you’re interested in seeing what other prominent third-party experts have to say about the paper, go ahead and take a look below.

  • EID: Five Things to Know about the Cornell Shale Study – Long Rebuttal // Fact Sheet
  • U.S. Dept. of Energy rebuttal: Life Cycle analysis of natural gas extraction and delivery (2011)
  • Carnegie Mellon researcher: “We don’t think [Cornell] is using credible data and some of the assumptions they’re making are biased.” (POLITICO, Aug. 2011)
  • Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi: “I worry about what this paper says about the peer review process and the way the press treats it.” (April 2011)

You can learn more at FracFocus.org, API’s Energy from Shale page, ANGA.us, HydraulicFracturing.com, or, of course, Energy In Depth.