What Exactly is Fracking?

“What exactly is fracking?” The golden question REF is trying to answer for our followers. So now that all the formalities and introductions are over, let’s jump right into the meat of things…

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of…

high volume


hydraulic drilling

 …through the injection of fluids and chemical mixtures into dense shale rock below the earth’s surface, in order to release natural gas (The 3 H’s).


Traditional wells tap into a big pool of gas or water underground and allow for us to pump up the resources from the reservoir. But when the resources are trapped tightly within or below dense shale rock, we need more than your average well to recover it.

In the process of fracking, a deep well is hydraulically drilled to an average vertical depth of 7,000 feet. When the well reaches the proper depth, it takes a turn, commonly referred to as the kick off point and hence becomes horizontal. The horizontal section of the well spans anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 feet. Once the well is drilled, a mixture of water and chemicals, called fracking fluid, is injected at an extremely high pressure down the well. When the solution reaches the end of the well, it is too much for the rock to absorb and so the rock cracks, causing fissures. These fissures are held open by sand and other additives found in the fracking fluid allowing for gas to escape and be brought up to the surface.

Simple enough, right? If you think that the seclusion of the three words above the diagram, high volume, horizontal, hydraulic drilling, was a typo, think again! If you noticed in our explanation below the diagram we also italicized 2 of these 3 words. Have you found the one that’s missing? Ok, we’ll tell you… it’s high volume.

Now let’s add some numbers to this equation…

  • The average frack job requires approximately 8 million gallons of water, per frack job.
  • It also requires 40,000 gallons of chemicals, per frack job.
  • A single well can be fracked about 18 times.

With the number of wells in the United States reaching 500,000, what is the volume of water and chemicals to run our current gas well system?

Well let us tell you…

Approximately 500,000 active gas wells in the US


Approximately 8 million gallons of water per job


Approximately 40,000 gallons of chemicals per job


18 times a well can be fracked


Approximately 72 trillion gallons of water


Approximately 360 billion gallons of chemicals

are needed to run our current gas well system.

And this is only in the United States!!!

Now, we’re stressing the word approximately before each number, because this value differs slightly from study to study. These are simply the mean values reported. Where/how do gas companies get all these resources from?

If you think those numbers aren’t big enough, then let’s consider how these high volumes, of water and chemicals and sand are all transported to these 500,000 sights. Each gas well requires an average of 1000 diesel tanker trucks to carry water, chemical, sand, and let’s not forget to mention waste to and from the site. What other potentially environmental and public health hazards does this expose to our communities?

Some interesting response’s we’ve seen through our presentations so far include, but are not limited to:

  • Air/ Water Pollution
  • Traffic
  • Higher potential for Car Accidents
  • Greater need for EMT services

(Please add more in the comments below.)

Then we mentioned waste, where does this waste go? If you look at the diagram above, we have passed well below our water table, and into aquifer territory. You know, that big reservoir of water below the earth’s surface that is providing us with clean drinking water. Ya, the same one we are depleting quicker than it is refilling. What does this mean for our water cycle? Our water quality? If you read our last post we left you with the question, how important is our water quality? What would happen if our water quality was contaminated?

Now as anxious as we are to continue, fracking fluid, water, and contamination are all topics for future posts. If the question above is bolded, we promise it will be answered, so check back next Sunday for our post on “Fracking Fluid”, and don’t forget to check out our “Fracking in the News” post this Wednesday!


3 thoughts on “What Exactly is Fracking?

  1. Pingback: Water Wars | R.E.F.

  2. Pingback: Fracking Fluid | R.E.F.

  3. Pingback: Where Does All This Waste Go? | R.E.F.

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