What environmental issues are associated with hydraulic fracturing?
The actual practice of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is only a small part of the overall process of drilling, completing, and producing an oil and gas well.
Environmental issues that are specifically related to hydraulic fracturing include:
- water availability
- spills of chemicals at the surface
- impacts of sand mining for use in the hydraulic fracturing process
- surface water quality degradation from waste fluid disposal
- groundwater quality degradation
- induced seismicity from the injection of waste fluids into deep disposal wells
Any kind of oil and gas drilling can additionally cause:
- reduced air quality
- night sky light pollution
- landscape changes such as forest fragmentation
- disruption to wildlife corridors and habitats
It is important to note that not all of these potential impacts occur at every site and many impacts can be avoided or mitigated with the proper practices.
Decades or longer may be needed to fully assess the effects of unconventional oil and gas production on the quality of groundwater used for drinking water in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas
Evidence of Unconventional Oil and Gas Wastewater Found in Surface Waters near Underground Injection Site
These are the first published studies to demonstrate water-quality impacts to a surface stream due to activities at an unconventional oil and gas wastewater deep well injection disposal site.
The amount of water required to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells varies widely across the country, according to the first national-scale analysis and map of hydraulic fracturing water usage detailed in a new USGS study accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
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.
What Happens to the Water? Assessing Water Quality in Areas with Hydraulically Fractured Oil and Gas Wells
More data and research are necessary to best understand the potential risks to water quality associated with unconventional oil and gas development in the United States, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study.
MENLO PARK, Calif.— A paper published today in Science provides a case for increasing transparency and data collection to enable strategies for mitigating the effects of human-induced earthquakes caused by wastewater injection associated with oil and gas production in the United States.
Two new U.S. Geological Survey publications that highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010 are now available.
Hydraulic fracturing fluids are believed to be the cause of the widespread death or distress of aquatic species in Kentucky's Acorn Fork, after spilling from nearby natural gas well sites. These findings are the result of a joint study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A hydraulic fracturing operation is underway at this drilling pad in the Marcellus Shale gas play of southwestern Pennsylvania.
A typical drill pad in the Marcellus Shale gas play of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Well heads hooked up in preparation for a hydraulic fracturing operation at a drill pad in the Fayetteville Shale gas play of Arkansas.
Equipment set up to pump water from a lake to an impoundment for hydraulic fracturing in the Fayetteville Shale of Arkansas.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist collecting water samples on a wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia to assess potential environmental impacts due to activities at the site. Shifts in the overall microbial community structure were present in stream sediments that contained chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas wastewaters.
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 the USGS Energy Resources Program, addresses the increasing role that unconventional oil and gas resources play in the nation's petroleum endowment. USGS hydrologist Dennis Risser discusses some of the major water availability and quality challenges associated with natural gas development, with a focus on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Bill Leith, associate coordinator the USGS Hazards Program, concludes by discussing the potential connection between disposal of waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes.