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.

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Why have some estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil or gas changed so much from previous estimates?

Petroleum geologists have long known that oil and gas resources were present in “tight” or impermeable formations such as shale. But there was no feasible way to extract that oil and gas, so they were not “technically recoverable” and were not included in USGS assessment results. Thanks to new technologies, oil and gas can now be extracted from “...

Who is responsible for monitoring the issues associated with hydraulic fracturing and protecting our environment?

Individual states regulate many aspects of oil and gas exploration and production. Federal land managers, such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have some oversight of oil and gas activities on the lands they manage. This includes conducting environmental impact...

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...

What is in the fluid injected into the ground during hydraulic fracturing?

In general, hydraulic fracturing fluid is composed of water, proppant (typically sand), and chemicals. A public website known as FracFocus has been established by industry that lists specific materials used in many, but not all, hydraulically fractured wells. Individual companies select a few chemicals to be used from hundreds that are available...

What is the USGS role related to hydraulic fracturing?

The USGS is a science research agency with no regulatory, land management, or enforcement powers. This includes: research and assessments on the location, quantity, and quality of unconventional oil and gas resources whose production could involve hydraulic fracturing. Resource assessments estimate the quantity of oil and gas that is yet to be...

How much water does the typical hydraulically fractured well require?

There isn’t really a “typical” fractured well because the amount of water used depends on the rock formation, the operator, whether the well is vertical or horizontal, and the number of portions (or stages) of the well that are fractured. In addition, some water is recycled from fluids produced by the well, so the net consumption might be smaller...

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...

How is hydraulic fracturing related to earthquakes and tremors?

Reports of hydraulic fracturing causing felt earthquakes are extremely rare. However, wastewater produced by wells that were hydraulic fractured can cause “induced” earthquakes when it is injected into deep wastewater wells. Wastewater disposal wells operate for longer durations and inject much more fluid than the hydraulic fracturing operations...

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,...

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...

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...
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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.

Date published: June 20, 2012

USGS Releases Unconventional Gas Estimates for Five East Coast Basins

Using a geology-based assessment method, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated a mean undiscovered natural gas resource of 3.9 trillion cubic feet and a mean undiscovered natural gas liquids resource of 135 million barrels in continuous accumulations within five East Coast Mesozoic basins, according to a new USGS report.  

Date published: June 20, 2011

Media Advisory: USGS to Host Congressional Briefing 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. 

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Image: Hydraulic Fracturing Operation Underway
March 14, 2016

Hydraulic Fracturing Operation Underway

A hydraulic fracturing operation is underway at this drilling pad in the Marcellus Shale gas play of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Image: Hydraulic Fracturing Drill Site
March 14, 2016

Hydraulic Fracturing Drill Site

A typical drill pad in the Marcellus Shale gas play of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Map showing percentage of hydraulically fractured wells

Map: Hydraulically fractured wells

This map shows the percentage of oil and gas wells that use horizontal drilling in watersheds across the United States. 

Map showing percentage of hydraulic fracturing water use

Percentage of Hydraulic Fracturing Use

This map shows the average water use in hydraulic fracturing per oil and gas well in watersheds across the United States.

Map showing percentage of hydraulically fractured wells

Map: Hydraulically fractured wells

This map shows the percentage of oil and gas wells that use horizontal drilling in watersheds across the United States.