What Are the Implications of Fracking on Your Local Environment?

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In the search for new sources of power, shale gas has been lauded as the next great source of fuel for the planet. You may have heard the term 'fracking' being mentioned on the news—but what is fracking? Amid environmental assessments' concerns about pollution and land contamination, is shale gas really the next good thing over renewables? Read on for more information.

What is fracking?

The term 'fracking' refers to the process of hydraulic fracturing, an industrial mining process where a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected under very high pressure into shale rock beds deep under the surface of the earth. The shale rock beds fracture under the tremendous forces applied by the fluid injection process and shale gas is released as a result. The shale gas is then collected via a well. The well is sealed with a robust cement casing that is designed to protect the area's groundwater and prevent it from being contaminated. 

What are the environmental dangers of fracking?

Environmental groups suggest that some of the chemicals used in the fracking process are cancer-causing. Furthermore, it is feared by some that the heavy mining activity required to release the gas will destroy wildlife habitat.

It is also feared that fracking may pollute groundwater with radiation and that methane released during the mining process could contaminate drinking water supplies. Although sealing the fracking wells would help to protect drinking water, contaminated groundwater would still be available to wildlife and farm animals. Contaminated water could also enter the human food chain through arable crops grown on affected land.

In addition to the concerns surrounding water, air pollution is also a possible side-effect of the gas extraction process, raising public fears about an increase in the incidence of respiratory diseases in people living in areas near fracking sites.

It is also feared that fracking operations could cause seismic activity in vulnerable areas, which could potentially be damaging to housing and transport networks. Fracking also produces large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas.

That's a pretty lengthy list of considerations to make before starting your own fracking process. Although fracking looks likely to be the next form of cheap energy to replace oil, coal, and natural gas, there would seem to be lots of negatives surrounding its extraction. However, residents in areas where fracking is likely to take place should be reassured that environmental assessments will take place before any serious mining work is authorised to be carried out.