Hydraulic Fracturing the Social Essay

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Hydraulic Fracturing

The social and economic evolution which unfolded, along the course of the industrialization era since the 1800s onwards has constituted the basis for many scientific investigations with regards to social and economic history. The creation and developmental process of national industry has very much been an important and dominant facet of economic upheaval. Despite the numerous benefits, industrialization nonetheless has brought about downsides which affect societies altogether. The goals set in pursuing personal interests have overcome the humane aspect of life, to the point of disregarding that, which is righteous and beneficial for the mere individual. Instead of focusing on and thriving on the advantages urban-industrial life has to offer which would, in parallel, restrict negative consequences as the result of exploitation, societies appear to be in competition with each other as to which one is more economically competent; this, in the detriment of the environment and the majority of the population which is unable to compete with whoever is pulling the strings. Furthermore, since economic value determines how much power one can exert, this is also a fight for dominance.

Exploiting Earth's natural resources has become a competition between states. This is the result of globalization with its fast paced rhythm. The aggressive process of industrialization makes things worse. Societies thus face a twofold situation; first, having to rely exclusively on Earth's limited resources for economic growth and development; second, having to face the negative environmental and socio-economic consequences of the first.

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The demand for energy in a continuously increasing consumerist society has been one of the main reasons behind the depletion of natural resources. Investments have been sought for the emergence and development of new technologies. That would allow for an even more complex process of exploitation with regards to instant or at least faster results and improved quantitative outcomes.

Essay on Hydraulic Fracturing the Social and Assignment

One such technology is hydraulic fracturing, an unconventional method used to extract unconventional gas and oil resources. But hydraulic fracturing is a dangerous, controversial method, which poses a number of threats, and this is why its implementation, rather than sustaining the population, works to its detriment.

Some of the most perilous risks which hydraulic fracturing poses are explosions and deflagration in the proximity of the extraction areas. This can subsequently lead to unexpected and dangerous effects; geologic-tectonic risks of multiplication and amplification of earthquakes especially in already affected areas; also, favoring the apparition of fronts fault which can store tectonic energy and generate local earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 6 on Richter scale in previously non-affected areas; a highly dangerous risk of water pollution, both groundwater and surface water due to the number of chemicals used in the process. This is in fact the primary risk that has stirred so many controversies over the implementation of the method and the one the majority of scientific studies have focused on.

Another risk put forth by the hydraulic fracturing technique is a major biological risk because water pollution inevitably affects living entities from microorganisms to human life since life itself is water dependent. In and around exploited areas, polluted water reaches fertile lands, peoples' wells and drinking water resources, etc. causing further damage.

There is also a nuclear risk when working with hydraulic fracturing because radioactive chemical substances -- called tracers -- are injected to mark the direction of the fracturing fluid. Also, at levels where shale gas is extracted, other concentrations of radioactive minerals can be found naturally and, within the process, these can also be disturbed. Finally, there is the risk of air pollution with significant quantities of benzene and toluene being dispersed into air, two carcinogens which are easily breathed in once in air.

In spite of all the threats hydraulic fracturing may pose to the environment, both above and below ground, as well as to the population living in the exploited areas, there are many who claim that hydraulic fracturing is a successful and environmentally safe technology. They point to the fact that this technology they consider "safe," has been utilized worldwide and for many years now to extract natural resources with little damage.

Companies engaged in shale gas extractions are mainly the proponents of the aforementioned theories and these argue that the amount of chemicals utilized in the process is extremely low to induce substantial dangers. Moreover, they claim that the chemical additives are as risky as whatever else chemical products are typically used in households. Thus, they bring the discussion of hydraulic fracturing related risks into the trivial and minimize them to the point of virtually denying there are any.

Because the fracturing fluid consists of 99,5% water and sand while only the rest of 0,5% is chemical, some believe that the only inherent role of the additives is to inject the sand within the fractures, to protect the equipment from the proliferation of bacteria and to cleanse the system. Drilling companies and those supporting hydraulic fracturing acknowledge therefore no other side effects but only minimum negative consequences assumed regularly in the exploitation processes.

To the contrary, in this paper we will take a different side and will indicate that, despite the variation between the water and sand and the chemicals concentration, the latter do have a serious negative impact on the overall environment as well as on those directly depending on the exploited areas. Furthermore, we will reveal that it is not merely the injection of chemicals and the dispersion of tracers that pose risks but the procedural technique of the overall fracturing process.

In order to support our arguments, we will have to provide a general background in regards to hydraulic fracturing. This will indicate that the conflict exists bi-dimensionally. On one hand, representative drilling companies in the U.S. And state officials are in a controversial situation with people affected by the fracturing method in the respective country as well as with those organizations disapproving the method. On the other hand, the conflict exists between the United States and European countries.

Hydraulic fracturing is a form exploitation using modern technology preferred over others nowadays because it holds the capacity to stimulate and enhance production of oil and gas resources situated at an otherwise unreachable level. In fact, because America benefits from an immense reservoir of such resources and because gas production has increased and continues to increase, Lisa M. McKenzie et al., research associates at the Colorado School of Public Health, noted, "It is becoming increasingly common for unconventional natural gas development (NGD) to occur near where people live, work, and play." (1) Unlike conventional resources, which are more easily extracted, unconventional ones such as shale gas usually require the implementation of more aggressive methods. It is actually the very fact that that hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades now that hardly makes it a new technology. However, it is only with recent public awareness as to the threat it imposes (particularly to people living in surrounding areas) that studies are more and more aimed at assessing and acknowledging the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water, air, and climate.

The basic technique was first utilized in the United States in the summer of 1947 (Charlez 239). Today, it combines hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, which has subsequently added to the environmental negative impact. The technique itself assumes that "the frac-fluid is pumped at a high pressure into a selected section of wellbore. This fluid pressure creates a fracture extending into the rock medium which contains oil or gas," (1) as described by Ching H. Yew, a consulting engineer specialized in hydraulic fracturing.

Since it first emerged, drilling companies have adopted fracturing and horizontal drilling for the extraction of natural resources all over America because the fracture "increases the production of hydrocarbons" (Charlez 239). Impressive corporations such as Chevron however are dominating the market not only in the U.S., but in numerous other countries in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. This is a money making machine specialized in every aspect of the oil and gas extraction, reaching all the aspects related to the energy production industry.

However, since awareness has increased in relation to the perilous outcomes of fracturing operations, companies like Chevron have lost permits previously grating them access to exploit certain areas in the U.S. Even so, the government's position seems rather to favor the expansion of hydraulic fracturing, considering that, for Colorado alone, between a span of merely five years (2003 -- 2008), the number of permits granted for natural gas operations rose from 2,249 to 8,027 (Colborn et al. 1040). With the increase of fracturing operations, we can also expect that potential risks will emerge more thoroughly due to already affected areas and a spread of areas affected in the present. Following, our main concern will be to address the negative effects, which indeed make hydraulic fracturing a dangerous technique.

When using hydraulic fracturing, the environmental impact is far more advanced than when using conventional exploitation methods. This is because, while the latter only use some tens or hundreds… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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