In this day and age ever more inventive ways to access the Earth’s natural resources are being devised. Shale gas, a type of natural gas, is found deep beneath the Earth’s surface but how do we unlock it from its subterranean prison? Well, we have the technology to extract and harness it as a fuel in a process known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.
How is fracking done?
As you can see in the image below, fracking is a huge operation that involves mining deep down below the Earth’s surface. High pressure water is blasted at the rock to crack it and release the gas. The water is accompanied by sand, which is injected along with the water to help collect it. Horizontal fracking is more effective than vertical fracking as more of the valuable resource can be accessed.
What equipment is used?
The deepest shale gas can be up to 2,100m below ground. While it’s not quite the Earth’s core, specialised equipment is still required. The fracking drill is a complex machine that first punches through the rock before bringing the gas back to the surface. The four steps in which it works can be seen below:
Why is it in the news?
Fracking has been undertaken in countries such as the USA for over 50 years so why is it suddenly such a big thing? Despite fracking being a useful energy source, the whole preocess of extracting it can cause damage to the surrounding areas. This has naturally caused outrage in areas where the scheme is planned to go ahead. This month, fracking has caused controversy in Lancashire as two sites are planned for future projects. At the time of writing, the UK Government haven’t decided on the outcome. Fracking could be an important energy gathering process but is it worth it with the damage it can cause?
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