On Sept. 18, an oil company from Pennsylvania made a proposal to drill for oil and associated gases in the Downs-area of McLean County.
More than likely, the company will partake in hydraulic fracturing in this area for natural gas, otherwise known as the associated gases with the well.
So, what is hydraulic fracking?
Basically, fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.
The pressurized fracking fluid needed to fracture the shale rock roughly 10,000 feet below the surface consists of water, sand and chemicals.
According to the 2009 Groundwater Protection Council’s report, “Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer,” roughly 2 million to 4 million gallons of water are used per fracking site depending on the basin and formation characteristic. Additionally, between three and 12 different chemicals are in a typical fracture treatment.
The upside people often associate with fracking is job growth. North Dakota can attest for this number, as well as Pennsylvania. The industry has created jobs over periods of time for the areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs. The numbers may fluctuate due to market forces related to the fossil fuel industry, but for the large part fracking has created jobs.
For a state such as Illinois with high unemployment rates, fracking has become a political tool to create job growth.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the fracking bill in June 2013. This legislation allowed for horizontal fracking to begin in Illinois. Since then, industrial lobbyists and environmental groups have spent more than year trying to devise regulations.
The downside of fracking is purely environmental.
During the process of drilling, cases have been cited where methane gas and toxic chemicals leak out and contaminate nearby groundwater. Approximately 30-50 percent of the fracturing fluid is recovered. The remaining percentage of the fluid is left in the ground and is not biodegradable. The documentary “Gasland” examines the problems connected with groundwater and homes near fracking sites.
The waste fluid accumulated from fracking is left in open air pits. They are meant to evaporate, but when they do they can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When VOCs are in the atmosphere they can create ground level ozone, acid rain and contaminated air.
As a result, these factors could heighten emissions which lead to climate change. Not to mention, once natural gas is burned for use it will also release CO2 into the atmosphere, a main catalyst in climate change.
To quote Leonardo DiCaprio from the recent UN Climate Summit, “For the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse.”
Natural gas extraction from hydraulic fracturing could mean jobs for Illinois, but at what cost? This next gubernatorial election could make a difference.