Fracking is a method of getting to underground oil and gas reserves via vertical and horizontal drilling.
Many farmers in southwest Harper County, Kansas and surrounding territories are taking advantage of a huge windfall. Gas and oil deposits lie 4,500 to 5,000 feet under their farms in the Mississippian limestone formed 320 million years ago. Oil companies are offering to buy, at big prices, the mineral rights to land that used to sell for $25 to $75 an acre. Farmers will still be able to grow their crops on their farms. If the fracking efforts of oil companies are successful, they will probably pay a portion of their profits to the landowners.
Still, some Kansas farmers are wary.
Fracking is done by pressure injecting millions of gallons of water and other fluids into the earth to shatter the rock and shale. Each shale well needs between 2 million and 12 million gallons of water to frack, to according to CNNMoney. After drilling, which can take up to a month, the well is cased with cement to ensure groundwater protection.
But due to severe drought conditions, water in Kansas is in short supply. One company, Petro River Oil, has resorted to offering farmers inflated prices to sell their water from ponds and streams. Many are reluctant to do so because of the need to irrigate their crops.
In addition, water used in fracking contains chemicals and sand. What goes into the ground may not be as foreboding as what comes gushing back out and held in flow-back pits. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports, “this waste-water, a combination of the injected fracking fluid and groundwater, is so saline that it is highly toxic to plants and aquatic life. What’s more, its high dissolved solids content can easily overwhelm municipal treatment facilities and contaminate drinking water supplies.”
Opponents of fracking also worry about the impact of underground gases leaking into the atmosphere.
The Sierra Club and Joe Spease, Kansas chairman of the Hydraulic Fracturing Committee are fighting for strict fracking regulations to better protect Kansas residents from the dangerous contamination to water and air.
- 1. To provide a baseline, pre-drilling water must be tested.
- 2. Chemicals used in fracking fluid must be disclosed.
- 3. To prevent leakage into the drinking water supply of Kansans, flow-back pit liners at fracking sites must comply with EPA and Department of Energy recommendations.
- 4. The state must monitor flow-back fluids for radiation which may exist in the Mississippian Lime.
Oil companies are willing to spend millions of dollars to avoid simple rules and regulations. If indeed fracking is a way to meet our gas and oil needs,why not spend those millions to figure out how to do it safely?
No matter which side of the argument you come down on, there is no doubt the process of fracking will be argued for a long time to come. Let’s hope that the industry commits to keeping the environment and the well-being of our children in mind.