What Is Hydraulic Fracturing?

Hydraulic fracturing has revolutionized the oil and gas industry, allowing for new potential of drilling shale plays across the country. Otherwise known as fracking, the technique involves pumping fluid and proppant into a wellbore so as to fracture the bedrock formation deep underground and allow oil and gas to flow into the wellbore and up to the surface.

Starting at the beginning of the long horizontal section of a well, segments of the wellbore are isolated and casing is perforated. Water, sand and other additives are then pumped under high pressure to create fissures, which is "propped" open by the sand. Today, companies publicly disclose the ingredients for fluids used during fracking operations. Though more than 99 percent of hydraulic fracturing fluid is comprised of water, the remaining concentration of fluid includes chemical additives to ensure the fracturing job is effective and efficient. These chemicals include additives such as friction reducers and corrosion inhibitors. The public can learn more about specific chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing by accessing the Frac Focus Chemical Disclosure Registry here.

The hydraulic fracturing process is heavily regulated throughout, ensuring the utmost protection of freshwater aquifers. Current government rules require multiple layers of protective steel casing be installed and surrounded by cement, so that all groundwater is fully protected. 

This technological advancement has been safely used for decades, providing producers new access to mineral resources in deep shale formations. Thanks to the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, the United States has dramatically improved domestic production levels of oil and natural gas, leading to an energy revolution for America and lessening the nation's dependence on foreign fuel sources. 

-Energy in Depth: Fracking 101
-U.S. Energy Department: Basics of shale gas development
-What is in hydraulic fracturing fluid?
-FracFocus: A historical perspecitve on hydraulic fracturing
-EIA: Hydraulic fractured horizontal wells account for most new oil and natural gas wells