Future of fracking: wastewater so clean you can drink it?
The technology of fracking is moving so fast that the process is becoming cheaper and cleaner. But the industry and the public are talking past each other.
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And as companies test new fracking technology—plug & perf vs. open hole, slickwater vs. oil vs. propane—new things get developed that keep lowering costs and increasing the amount of oil and gas that can get produced. What I mean to say is that technology is changing so fast, the industry can hardly keep up--much less the general public. And the industry is obviously fixated on keeping up with the competition; not explaining things to the public--which, in all likelihood, will all be out of date shortly.
The industry is even developing more environmental ways of fracking. I believe, for example, that in five years all fracking fluid will be food-grade. You (ok, maybe not you, but the oil and gas company reps) will be able to drink the stuff. The public is demanding it. I think it will happen—but not right away.
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The industry and the public are going to continue to dance around this issue for the next couple years trying to find consensus. The Shale Revolution is SO important economically to the United States there is no way fracking is EVER going to get banned in the near-to-mid-term. But both sides need to work harder to find consensus.
The two sides don’t talk the same language yet. When regulators produce 450-page studies which have scientific backing that say fracking can be done safely, I don’t hear respect from the people opposed to fracking.
And the industry... well, a lot of them are like deer caught in the headlights. They’ve been fracking for 50 years, and they just can’t get over what all this new fuss is about.
It's high time to get over it, guys.
There is a very bright light of mainstream attention that will forever change the way oil and gas does its business in the developed world, and how it gets permitted.
Sadly, the industry hasn’t been pro-active or successful in getting ahead of public opinion on fracking, and they remain re-active in responding to issues—most of which they clearly never thought were issues in the first place.
And some very aggressive operators who have little bedside manner haven’t helped at local levels—especially in areas that are new to oil and gas, like the northeast US. (Read more from Oilprice.com: A Chink in Riyadh's Armor?)
Carol French and Carolyn Knapp, two Pennsylvania dairy farmers, are outspoken critics of fracking. They not only point to stories of contaminated wells but to the problems that come with the infrastructure brought in by operators. According to The Associated Press, the pair say that pipelines can cut off access to crops and drilling equipment can cause serious damage to roads.
"I never in my wildest dreams envisioned the industrialization that comes along with this process," Knapp told a group in North Carolina.
Siobhan Griffin, a New York cattle farmer, told the news source that she fears for her animals if fracking comes to town.
Two incidents stick out in her mind: the quarantine of 28 cows in Pennsylvania after they drank fracking wastewater and the death of 17 Louisiana cows that died after drinking water that was contaminated. (Fracking involves millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and about 1% chemicals pumped into the earth to fracture shale rock, releasing gas. The wastewater created by this has caused many fears of drinking water contamination.)