Can fracking be environmentally acceptable?

Jay N. Meegoda, Samuel Rudy, Zhenting Zou, Michael Agbakpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The hydraulic fracturing or fracking and extraction of shale gas is vital to the continued success of the human race to provide a relatively clean energy source. However, there are several environmental issues that must be solved in order to make fracking environmentally acceptable. Once these issues are resolved, it could lead to a brighter future by allowing shale gas to act as a bridge to clean energy, while providing energy independence for the United States. To achieve these goals, there is a need to find suitable solutions to the following problems: methane gas leaks while fracking and during production, trigger of earthquakes due to fracking, and the disposal of the wastewater (largely comprised of fracking fluid) after the completion of fracking. To investigate the aforementioned environmental impacts, comprehensive research was performed using data for the Marcella formation. Although it is clear that additional research must be performed to fully deal with all the issues, the following strategies have been found to solve or mitigate the problems. To prevent the impact of methane gas leaks, well workers must be properly trained and supervised. As another precaution to prevent the methane from contaminating groundwater, groundwater wells must be a minimum of 1 km away from the vertical section of fracking wells. To lessen the intensity and frequency of earthquakes caused by fracking, a regulation should be set in place that prevents disposal of wastewater by groundwater injection wells. In addition, the site should be checked for possible active and inactive faults before the approval of fracking. Finally, fracking companies must be required to withdraw most fluids from wells and to treat them according to state regulations and reuse or surface disposal as treated water. If all of these suggestions are implemented, fracking can be made much more environmentally viable and safe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04016013
JournalJournal of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Waste Management and Disposal

Keywords

  • Earthquakes
  • Environmental impact
  • Fracking
  • Groundwater contamination
  • Methane
  • Wastewater

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