- It is the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock that, together with horizontal drilling, unleashes abundant natural gas.
- Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside
- Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
- The process can be carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer and can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels.
- Fracking allows drilling firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of oil and gas.
- In the US it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices
- Environmental concerns:-
- Extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.
- Use of water:-
- Fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.
- The massive amount of water used in the fracking process has led to water shortages in some drilling areas.
- Groundwater contamination:-
- Environmentalists say potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.
- Fracking process can cause small earth tremors. Recent earthquake in South Korea may be linked to fracking
- Reliance on fossil fuels:-
- Campaigners say that fracking is simplydistracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels.
- The long-term impact of weakening underground rock formations through the fracturing technique is widely questioned.
India should start fracking:-
- Frackinghas led to substantial increases in U.S. domestic oil and gas production, thereby significantly reducing the need for oil imports.
- Fracking-created oil boom has also had beneficial effects on the economy as a whole, playing a significant part in the reduction of gasoline and natural gas prices and creatinghundreds of thousands of jobs.
- In the U.S., where shale gas has been commercially exploited for two decades, the prices of fuel and electricity have dropped.
- If India commercially exploits shale deposits,it could meet its ever-increasing energy demand, decrease oil and gas imports, and improve the balance of payments.
- To gain such benefits, the government introduced a policy on shale gas and oil in 2013, permitting national oil companies to engage in fracking
No,the consequences are very drastic:-
- Countries like Germany and France and subnational governments like Scotland have banned fracking.
- As fracking consumes large amounts of water (average 15,000 m3/well) and relatively larger surface area, it is bound to impact irrigation and other local requirements.
- In the U.S. experience, out of 260 chemical substances, 58 have been identified to pose a risk to human life and environment, eight are carcinogens and 17 are toxic to freshwater organisms.
- Further, as 25-90% of the fluid is not retrieved and cracks in the shaft are possible, there is ahigh risk of pollution to nearby underground water.
- Fracking has other impacts such as increased air emissions (including greenhouse gases) and seismic activity.
- Legal issues:-
- If the risk from fracking to underground water materialises, courts can hold the state responsible for it, stop the activity, and order other corrective and preventive measures.
- Fracking might face the ‘precautionary principle’, which has been incorporated into law.
- It dictates that where there is a significant risk to the environment or human health, precautionary measures must be undertaken, irrespective of any scientific uncertainty. Therefore, the government would be obliged to adopt measures to reduce those risks.
- The Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016, sets a priority for use of groundwater. Only after satisfying these priorities can underground water be used for other purposes
- India needs to take decision looking into all multiple options but based on international experiences for now the government should impose a moratorium on fracking.