How does hydraulic fracturing differ from traditional petroleum development methods?

In a conventional oil or gas field, where the oil or gas is in relatively porous and permeable rock (i.e. the pores are connected), the oil or gas can usually flow naturally from the reservoir rock to the wellbore. Nonetheless, a variety of techniques are often used to improve the flow of oil or gas, including hydraulic fracturing. 

Rock formations that are very impermeable require artificially fracturing the rock using hydraulic fracturing in order to produce significant amounts of oil or gas. 

Learn more: Hydraulic Fracturing 

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 6

Where in the United States is hydraulic fracturing being used for oil and gas extraction?

Hydraulic fracturing is used in many established oil and gas producing regions of the country as well as some areas new to the petroleum industry. Maps of major shale gas, tight gas, and tight oil basins are available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, although not all of the shale basins shown currently have production. Learn more:...

When did hydraulic fracturing become such a popular approach to oil and gas production?

Hydraulic fracturing in vertical wells has been used for over fifty years to improve the flow of oil and gas from conventional reservoirs. However, the current practice of horizontal drilling coupled with multiple applications of hydraulic fracturing in a single well was pioneered in the late 1980s and has continued to evolve. Since the final...

What is hydraulic fracturing?

Hydraulic fracturing, informally referred to as “fracking,” is an oil and gas well development process that typically involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals under high pressure into a bedrock formation via the well. This process is intended to create new fractures in the rock as well as increase the size, extent, and connectivity of...

How does hydraulic fracturing affect the surface or landscape of an area?

An area undergoing production of oil or gas using hydraulic fracturing technology shares many features with areas where conventional oil or gas is being developed, including: Roads Pipelines Compressor stations Processing facilities. Features that are unique to areas in which hydraulic fracturing is used include: Fewer but larger drilling pads,...

Can hydraulic fracturing impact the quality of groundwater or surface water?

Conducted properly, hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has little possibility of contaminating water supplies. Properly constructed wells prevent drilling fluids, hydraulic fracturing fluids, deep saline formation waters, or oil and gas from entering aquifers. Carefully constructed and operated well sites have the ability to contain potential...

How and where do drillers dispose of waste hydraulic fracturing fluid?

Most of the water and additives used in hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) remain deep underground in the geologic formation from which the oil or gas is being extracted. But some of the fluid, mixed with water or brine from the formation, returns through the well to the surface and is referred to as “produced water”. After a well is brought on-...
Filter Total Items: 6
Date published: December 10, 2020

Bakken Shale unconventional oil and gas production has not caused widespread hydrocarbon contamination to date in groundwater used for water supply

A new USGS study reports that shale-oil and -gas production from a major production area in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota has not caused widespread hydrocarbon contamination to date in nearby aquifer zones used for drinking-water supply.

Date published: October 24, 2016

Wastewater Disposal Likely Induced February 2016 Magnitude 5.1 Oklahoma Earthquake

Distant wastewater disposal wells likely induced the third largest earthquake in recent Oklahoma record, the Feb. 13, 2016, magnitude 5.1 event roughly 32 kilometers northwest of Fairview, Oklahoma. These findings from the U.S. Geological Survey are available in the online edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

Date published: March 28, 2016

EarthWord – Induced Seismicity

The occurrence or frequency of earthquakes for which the origin is attributable to human activities.

Date published: May 27, 2015

Hydraulic Fracturing (Frac) Sand Sources and Production in the United States

Newly released research from the U.S. Geological Survey describes U.S. hydraulic fracturing (frac) sand deposits and their locations, and provides estimates of frac sand production, consumption, and reserves. A companion map of producing and potential frac sand and resin-coated sand source units in the conterminous U.S. is also included.

Date published: May 11, 2015

The Chemistry of Waters that Follow from Fracking: A Case Study

In a study of 13 hydraulically fractured shale gas wells in north-central Pennsylvania, USGS researchers found that the microbiology and organic chemistry of the produced waters varied widely from well to well.

Date published: January 27, 2015

Historical Hydraulic Fracturing Trends and Data Unveiled in New USGS Publications

Two new U.S. Geological Survey publications that highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010 are now available.

Filter Total Items: 7
May 31, 2018

PubTalk 5/2018 — Yes Humans really are causing induced earthquakes

Title: Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes! How Energy Industry Practices are Causing Earthquakes in America's Heartland

  • In every year since 2014, Oklahoma has had more earthquakes than California.
  • Oil and gas operations are "inducing" these earthquakes.
  • The earthquake rate has dropped by more than 50 percent due to changes in industry
Attribution:
Hydraulic Fracturing and Directional Drilling
November 17, 2016

Hydraulic Fracturing and Directional Drilling

Hydraulic Fracturing and Directional Drilling

Image: Perforating Gun for Hydraulic Fracturing
March 14, 2016

Perforating Gun for Hydraulic Fracturing

Unused and spent perforating gun used in oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The pipe on the bottom left, shows holes created by the explosive charges mounted inside the pipe.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
video thumbnail: Science or Soundbite? Shale Gas, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Induced Earthquakes
April 3, 2012

Science or Soundbite? Shale Gas, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Induced Earthquakes

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting wells with water, sand, and chemicals at very high pressure. This process creates fractures in deeply buried rocks to allow for the extraction of oil and natural gas as well as geothermal energy. USGS scientists discuss the opportunities and impact associated with hydraulic fracturing. Doug Duncan, associate coordinator for

Attribution: Natural Hazards
video thumbnail: Unconventional Oil and Gas—Fueling the Future
June 23, 2011

Unconventional Oil and Gas—Fueling the Future

The Nation relies on oil and gas to power its economy, and unconventional gas is the fastest-growing energy resource in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey is the authoritative, unbiased source for assessments of the world's oil and gas endowment. Come learn how these exciting new energy resources may contribute to the energy mix.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
video thumbnail: Unconventional Oil and Gas—Fueling the Future
June 23, 2011

Unconventional Oil and Gas—Fueling the Future

The Nation relies on oil and gas to power its economy, and unconventional gas is the fastest-growing energy resource in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey is the authoritative, unbiased source for assessments of the world's oil and gas endowment. Come learn how these exciting new energy resources may contribute to the energy mix.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals
Generalized image showing the key points in hydraulic fracturing

Generalized image showing the key points in hydraulic fracturing

Generalized image showing the key points in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas development where water is part of the process.

Attribution: Energy and Minerals