What is fracking?

What Does fracking Mean

The notion of fracking is not part of the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy ( RAE ). The term, however, is often used to refer to a method that allows oil and gas to be extracted from unconventional reservoirs .

Fracking, also called in our language fracture, fracturing or hydraulic stimulation , is based on the development of the drilling of a horizontal or vertical well to generate channels that, through the injection of high pressure water combined with certain chemicals, cause a fracture or expand those that already exist in the rocky substrate containing the hydrocarbon . In this way, the oil or gas comes to the surface.

Hydrocarbons are defined as organic compounds, that is, molecules whose content is based on carbon (they may have other elements, although less frequently) that form carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds. In the particular case of hydrocarbons, their composition has only hydrogen and carbon. It is the main subject of organic chemistry. Its carbon chains can take several forms: both linear and branched, as well as open or closed.
This technique became very popular in recent years as, as fuel prices rose, its methodology became profitable. However, there are many detractors of fracking because of the danger it poses to the environment.
The oil and gas industry affirms that fracking presents risks similar to those of the rest of the technologies applied in the sector. They also highlight that fracking allows the exploitation of hydrocarbons that, until then, were inaccessible , generating economic benefits and helping to satisfy an energy demand that continues to grow worldwide. It is estimated that the production of natural gas in the United States increased by 35% since 2005 thanks to the application of fracking, which represented significant savings because it was no longer necessary to import it.
Those who oppose fracking, on the other hand, argue that this technique has a very high environmental impact : it demands the consumption of large amounts of water and pollutes the surface, aquifers and the atmosphere . They even assure that, with the fracking boom, seismic activity increased due to the injection of fluids into the subsoil.
Despite the fact that fracking is still very relevant today, it is important to note that it originated in the 19th century, more precisely in the 1860s, in the United States of America. In its beginnings, the subsoil was injected with nitroglycerin, an organic compound that is obtained after the mixture of glycerin, sulfuric acid and concentrated nitric acid. Since 1930, acids began to replace explosives, but it was only in 1947 that experts considered the use of water.

Two years later, the Stanolind Oil Company began to use this method industrially. Fracking did not take long to reach other parts of the world, since by the beginning of the following decade it was adopted in several European and African countries, among which are: the Soviet Union, Poland, Norway, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, France, Austria , Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey, Romania, Algeria and Tunisia.
If we talk about fracking, it is common for the name of Geroge P. Mitchell to come up , who is currently considered the father of this technique in its modern version. This recognition is due to the fact that it made it economically viable in the Barnett Shale deposit : it managed to reduce costs until it reached that for every million British thermal units ( BTU ) the necessary investment was only four dollars. In doing so, he led his company , Mitchell Energy , to become the first commercially active hydraulic fracturing in 1998.

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