Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process by which energy companies stimulate the extraction of natural gas and oil from underground wells. According to FracFocus, the national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry, the first commercial application of the process as a way to produce oil or gas occurred either in Kansas in 1946 or Oklahoma in 1949. Since then, fracking has become a widespread practice throughout the industry and has been used on more than 1 million wells across the globe. How does fracking work?
Fracking involves injecting a special pressurized liquid - typically composed of water, sand and chemicals - into an underground oil- or gas-rich formation. The injection creates fractures in the rock that allow oil and natural gas to escape through a new or existing well. In other words, the process creates paths that speed up the rate at which the fossil fuels can be extracted. Frac sand helps hold the fractures open. These days, fracking is most common in shale formations. Across the United States and many other areas of the world, there are underground shale formations that contain large amounts of natural gas and oil. Why is fracking needed?
The world's massive supply of these resources is useless if it can't be accessed. Fracking helps energy companies reach oil and gas reserves that would otherwise remain untapped. This could be the case for a number of reasons, such as a shale formation that is very tight. Fracking also helps extend the life of older oil and gas wells that may have soon discontinued production. According to FracFocus, experts believe that over the next 10 years, hydraulic fracturing will be necessary to keep 60 to 80 percent of all wells in the United States in production. Fracking is also frequently combined with the horizontal drilling method, thereby becoming an even more successful way to extract fossil fuels.