What the Frack?

What’s all this fuss about "fracking" and why should we care?
In honor of Earth Day (4/22) and the earth’s capacity to support life, including our own, let's begin to “drill” into this phenomenon of hydraulic fracturing.

In a nutshell, hydraulic fracturing is a method of extracting oil or gas from rock layers deep underground. This involves drilling a well into the shale layer where geologists have identified oil or gas deposits. Water mixed with silica and a large number of chemicals is then forced into this layer under high pressure in order to create fissures in the rock to release the oil or gas so it can flow up the well and be captured at the surface and further processed and transported to end users.

To get a sense of what this involves join us tonight (Monday 4/21 at the Central Library at 6:30 p.m.) to view Josh Fox' Gasland Part II. You can also visit Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy's 501(c)6 website, "Study Fracking" to view diagrams and read their explanation of the process.

A fracking boom is currently taking place in Colorado especially in Weld county. It has been lauded as a boost to the Colorado economy by providing jobs and financial rewards to those leasing their land and those companies extracting the oil and/or gas. In the case of natural gas the industry claims that it is a cleaner source of fossil fuel energy than coal and that local production of this fuel means more energy independence for the United States.

But not everyone embraces this new found fossil fuel wealth in our state. A number of municipalities have recently passed bans or moratoriums on fracking within their confines. In addition, petitions will be circulating this summer to put anti-fracking or “local control over fracking decisions” on the November ballot.

A number of local environmental issues have been raised. This includes: air quality in communities located close to fracking wells; toxic fracking water leaks; pipeline leaks especially during the catastrophic September floods of 2013; water use in the fracking process in arid Colorado; waste storage issues such as those raised in North Dakota's fracking boom; and hormone disrupting health impacts of chemicals involved in the fracking process.

In addition to these potential local level problems there is the meta-concern of climate change. Carbon molecules released during the extraction, production and consumption of fossil fuels is trapping the sun's radiant heat in the earth's atmosphere and oceans resulting in a higher frequency of extreme weather events including an increase in average summer temperatures and drought patterns. In a recently released report, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), states that we have a 10-15 year window to make the transition from a fossil fuel based energy system to one based on renewables (wind, solar, hydro) in order to avert catastrophic climate change. Recent findings also conclude that 80% of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to avert climate change disaster for humans and other species. Furthermore, a report released last month has measured a much larger degree of methane release in the fracking process in Pennsylvania than originally thought. Methane's impact on heating up the earth's atmosphere in the short term is substantially greater than that of carbon.

I will save economic arguments, pros and cons, as well as a discussion of DPL's collection regarding hydraulic fracturing for future blogs. In the meantime come down to the Central Library this evening, April 21 at 6:30 p.m., if you can, to view Gasland II. I look forward to a robust conversation on fracking in the months to come!

Written by evi on April 21, 2014


James Bourne on April 22, 2014


The picture above is a picture of a drilling rig, no fracing is taking place.


Hi James, Thanks for your comment. My understanding is that drilling is part of the fracking process. Is there an image you can point to that shows what the surface looks like when hydraulic fracturing is taking place? It would be good to learn what the different components look like.


I did a little more research and came up with this image of sections of drilling pipe and a drilling rig on a six-well pad in the Piceance Basin of Colorado. The photo is by Tim Hurst and was found on Creativecommons.org. Thanks for the heads up, James.

evi on April 22, 2014


For anyone who missed the screening and would like to view the film, the library does have Gasland II available for checkout.

Leigh Ann on April 23, 2014


Thank you, Evi, for your blog on Fracturing/fracking. With so much misinformation on this provocative and controversial topic, folks need to get the facts & straighten out the truth from fiction--and there is no better place to do this than at the public library. Look forward to more of your blogs on this very important subject!


I agree, Leigh Ann. The public library is a great place to research topics and to hopefully have important conversations about things that matter in our lives.

The topic of "fracking" can lead to some heated exchanges. I'm hoping that we in Colorado can find a way to get at the facts and the contexts of hydraulic fracturing in order to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon. There are many angles it can be viewed from.

I'm hoping that through a series of blogs on the topic, we can have a public conversation about the pros, cons, and concerns regarding fracking. I know I still have a lot to learn :)

Sarah on April 23, 2014


I wish I would've seen this event earlier. I am impressed with the focus on the issue, rather than name calling. I wondered if you were going to present the other side "FrackNation" in an effort to continue the dialogue.


Hi Sarah. You can still check out Gasland Part II if you missed coming to the screening. It was too long a film to have time for discussion at the end so the only thing you missed was seeing it on a big screen. We also have FrackNation in our collection for anyone who wants to view that dvd as well. At this point I'm not sure if we'll be showing it or not.

I will, however, be blogging about our book and dvd collection on hydraulic fracturing regardless of the bias of the author/authors. Hopefully, we as a community can dig deeper into the phenomenon and have a civil "multi-logue" based on facts and concerns without the name calling. I very much agree with you that name calling is not productive :)

Anonymous on April 26, 2014


I would suggest visiting the Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development website, www.cred.org. It not only provides facts about hydraulic fracturing, but also includes a reputable source for the facts. They also have a facebook page for those who are interested.

A video that shows the drilling and fracking process can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY34PQUiwOQ&feature=youtu.be. This video was found on Western Energy Alliance's website (http://www.westernenergyalliance.org/).

I hope these sources are helpful in aiding your research on hydraulic fracturing.


Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development is funded by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy so I would hardly say this is a "reputable source for facts," or at the very least, an unbiased source of information about fracking. Listen to the story on Colorado Public Radio and make up your own mind if CRED is telling the truth about this industry. http://www.cpr.org/news/audio/fact-checking-ad-campaigns-fracking

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