Multi-stage fracturing of horizontal wells, commonly known as fracking has been used extensively only since the early 2000s. Vertical fracking has been around for about 60 years, but although the two methods are similar in many ways there are also significant differences. Horizontal fracking has made a lot of shale gas and oil formations which were once considered not financially viable, suddenly very attractive, but it comes at an environmental cost. A lot more water, chemicals, and pressure are used in this new oil and gas extraction boom.
In British Columbia alone 11,000 new wells have been drilled since early 2000. Each and every well uses between 2 and 7 million gallons of water, 80% of which is never recovered. The water for fracking is permanently removed from lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers. This water is mixed with 80 to 140 Tons of Chemicals for each fracked well. A risk is that the water combined with sand, and 750 different chemicals, (many of the chemicals are not disclosed for proprietary reasons), injected under very high pressure to loosen the gas and oil, may find its way into our drinking water.
According to many studies by top scientists worldwide, there is a clear link between fracking and contamination of underground aquifers. There have been a number of cases where homeowners have had gas seeping into their wells to the point where if it has time to accumulate the gas from the well water, can be lit on fire. The danger of contaminated well water is not only a health risk for the homeowner, this could also pose a problem for farmers in cases where water used to irrigate plants or drinking water for animals is found to be contaminated. We are finding over time that although there is a vast distance between the fracked shale oil and gas formations and underground aquifers, what was once thought to be “impermeable layers (of rock and sandstone) can be surprisingly permeable and fractures in the rock can be interlinked in unexpected ways.”
When the International Oil and Gas companies have used up the ‘easily extracted profitable oil’, estimated by a number of international financial institutions to be in as little as 25 years, most will simply walk away. Anybody who lives near one of these tens of thousands of abandoned wells will be left with the threat of contamination to their underground aquifers, and to nearby lakes and streams around many tens of thousands of abandoned wells, for generations.