USA – fracking

As 2017 begins, the US is still the only nation that is undertaking fracking on a large scale. When ascribing equal importance to the environmental, economic and social impacts of shale gas extraction, fracking ranked seventh out of nine electricity options. link  According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration: 67% percent of natural gas produced in the U.S. came from fractured wells in 2015. Coal consumption in the U.S. emitted about 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2015 while at the same time natural gas use emitted 1.48 billion metric tons of CO2 equivalent. For the first time last year, natural gas contributed about the same level of greenhouse gas emissions as coal, the globe’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. link


  • General information
  • EPA studies
  • US states’ news
  • The Marcellus Shale field

links to maps of shale distribution in the USA takes on the fracking issue – link

General information

August 15 2018: Water footprint sparks fears of shortages. The amount of water used for fracking in parts of the US has increased by up to 770% sparking fears the industry could cause water shortages in arid regions. There was also a massive increase of up to 1440% in the amount of toxic wastewater generated in the first year of operation at fracked oil and gas wells over the same period. link

November 2017: How the U.S. government hid fracking’s risks on drinking water – link

July 2017: Trump administration proposes repeal of fracking protections. The administration formalized the reversal with a proposal to be published for public notice and comment as the U.S. Department of Interior moves ahead with its plan to rescind the 2015 rule. link

October. 2014: Methane from fracking rise 135% on federal lands. Methane emissions from fracking on federal lands more than doubled between 2008 and 2013, according to a report by left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. The report drew from Interior Department data to show that emissions of the potent but short-lived greenhouse gas rose 135% over the period. Much of the emissions were attributed to “venting” and “flaring” – meaning igniting excess natural gas produced at hydraulic fracturing sites. link

May 2014: US shale industry estimates unraveling. In June, the US Energy Information Administration will publish a new estimate of US shale deposits set to deal a death-blow to industry hype about a new golden era of US energy independence by fracking unconventional oil and gas. Previous estimates of recoverable oil in the Monterey shale reserves in California of about 15.4 billion barrels were vastly overstated. The revised estimate, they said, will slash this amount by 96% to a puny 600 million barrels of oil. Industry lobbyists have for long highlighted the Monterey shale reserves as the big game-changer for US oil and gas production. link

February 2012. The fracking industry buys Congress. The fracking industry goes virtually unregulated. Why? The answer is money. The oil and gas industry has reaped billions in profits from fracking. And since 1990, they’ve pumped $238.7 million into gubernatorial and Congressional election campaigns to persuade lawmakers that fracking is safe, which has effectively blocked federal regulation. A natural gas drilling rush is on in rural North Dakota. And with it, residents are reporting growing numbers of respiratory ailments, skin lesions, blood oozing from eyes, and the deaths of livestock and pets. Elsewhere, residents of Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wyoming and other states who thought they’d hit the lottery by signing natural gas drilling leases have watched their drinking water turn noxious: slick, brown, foamy, flammable. In December, for the first time, federal regulators scientifically linked hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to the contamination of an aquifer, refuting repeated industry claims that the practice does not pollute drinking water. link

March 2016: US shale oil: the day of reckoning will come. The financial state of the US shale oil industry is much worse than the still impressive production figures would lead us to believe, writes energy expert Jilles van den Beukel, a former geophysicist with Shell. Shale oil producers and investors have managed to postpone the day of reckoning, but the fundamentals of the industry make a shake-out inevitable. link

April 2012: Obama administration sets first-ever national standards to control air pollution from fracking. The Obama administration is setting the first-ever national standards to control air pollution from gases released by fracking. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said: “This is an important step towards tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous air threats.” link

EPA studies

June 2015: EPA concludes fracking has contaminated drinking water. “Today EPA confirmed what communities living with fracking have known for years: fracking pollutes drinking water,” said Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel. After years of asserting that hydraulic fracturing has never tainted drinking water, the Obama administration issued a long-awaited study  of the controversial oil and gas production technique that confirmed “specific instances” when fracking “led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells.” The conclusion was central to a nearly 1,000-page draft assessment issued by the EPA to address public concerns about the possible effects of fracking on drinking water. Still, the EPA determined that the number of contamination cases “was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.” link

June 2013: EPA pushes back fracking impact study to 2016. The study, aimed at assessing the threats fracking poses to groundwater supplies and air quality, began in 2010 under the direction of Congress. The intent was to create a thorough assessment of the drilling method so states could make informed decisions on whether to ban fracking or regulate the industry. With the study’s release still years away, some observers question whether it will mean much at all, as horizontal drilling is already taking off in many states. In June 2012, there were more than 680,000 fracking wells throughout the country. link

US states news

May 2012: Official – Vermont bans fracking – link
June 2013: Illinois adopts nation’s strictest fracking regulations – link
June 2010: Wyoming first state to act on fracturing disclosures. State regulators unanimously approved new rules that require industry to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Wyoming is the first state to do so. link
December 2011: Colorado approves disclosure of fracking chemicals – link

 Marcellus Shale Field

The Marcellus Shale stretches through southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. The shale contains bubbles of methane, the remains of life that died 400 million years ago. Gas corporations have lusted for the methane in the Marcellus since at least 1967 when one of them plotted with the Atomic Energy Agency to explode a nuclear bomb to unleash it. That idea died, but it’s been reborn in the form of a technology invented by Halliburton Corporation: high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing -“fracking” for short. Fracking uses prodigious amounts of water laced with sand and a startling menu of poisonous chemicals to blast the methane out of the shale. At hyperbaric bomb-like pressures, this technology propels five to seven million gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water a mile or so down a well bore into the shale. Up comes the methane, along with about a million gallons of wastewater containing the original fracking chemicals and other substances that were also in the shale, among them radioactive elements and carcinogens. There are 400,000 such wells in the United States. Surrounded by rumbling machinery, serviced by tens of thousands of diesel trucks, this nightmare technology for energy release has turned rural areas in 34 U.S. states into toxic industrial zones.  In every fracking state but New York, where a moratorium against the process has been in effect since 2010, the gas industry has contaminated ground water, sickened people, poisoned livestock, and killed wildlife. link

October 2012: Marcellus much larger than previously thought. New research suggests that the Marcellus Shale natural gas field could contain almost half of the current proven natural gas reserves in the U.S, a much larger amount than previously reported. Earlier this year, the federal Energy Information Administration sharply lowered its estimates of Marcellus reserves, from 410 trillion cubic feet down to 141 trillion cubic feet; but that lowered estimate doesn’t correspond with actual well production where analysis shows that the Marcellus contains about 330 trillion cubic feet of gas, more than double the size of the next largest field in the nation, the Eagle Ford in south Texas. link