Shale Gas Development

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Addressing the Environmental Risks From Shale Gas Development. Write a 1500 word paper answering; The major concerns about shale gas production have been around the hydraulic fracture process where the shale rock is caused to fracture by hydraulic pressure. The cracks in the rock propagate 500 to 800 feet in all directions from the casing pipe and the effect is similar to an underground seismic shock. The fracture pressure needs to be monitored and controlled to prevent the cracks from spreading beyond the shale gas layer (page 4). The general concern with setting off such underground fractures is that the fissures may permit contamination of underground water aquifers that are used for drinking water (page 7). Most shale gas formations are found 4,000 to 8,500 feet below the surface whereas drinking water sources are rarely more than 850 feet deep (page 8). Seismic monitoring is an essential tool to ensure that the underground cracks do not spread beyond the shale gas formation. However, only 3% of around 75,000 hydraulic fractures carried out in 2009 in the US were seismically-monitored (page 8). An additional concern is with such an underground fracture may lead to earthquakes. The town of Cleburne, Texas has experienced several low-intensity earthquakes under 3.3.on the Richter scale in 2008 and 2009 after the start of shale gas exploration in the area when the region has no recorded earthquakes in the previous 142 years (page 9). Preliminary studies do not find a definite link between shale gas exploration and these earthquakes but the concern remains. The paper does not say whether the hydraulic fractures in the Cleburne area were seismically-monitored. Hydraulic fracturing requires 2 to 8 million gallons of water per well fractured. Though water once used for fracturing can be reused by diluting with fresh water, the Barnett Shale project has used an average of 3 million gallons of fresh water per well and has drilled tens of thousands of such wells (page 12).

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