As concerns grow that conventional oil and gas reserves cannot keep up with the world’s growing energy needs, ‘fracking’ promises to deliver an oil and gas bonanza.
What is it?
Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ involves drilling into dense shales which are ‘fracture stimulated’ by pumping a mixture of water, sand, ceramic beads and chemicals at high pressure. This fracture stimulation forces open fissures in the rock and allows trapped oil and gas to flow up the well to the surface where they can be recovered.
Where is it happening?
The fracking boom is most advanced in the USA although it has been carried out for decades in Canada and there is significant interest in China, Poland, Germany and the UK among many others.
Shale reserves are widespread across the world, one study has shown that South Africa’s South Karoo could hold enough gas to supply the country for 400 years. Despite these benefits, activists vehemently opposed the development of this resource. In the UK fracking has resulted in public protest and opposition to the development in response to concerns about environmental damage and climate change.
As well as producing gas, fracking is used in oil production. The Bakken oil field in North Dakota, USA provides a striking example of this. Between 2007 and mid-2013 production increased 40-fold, from 18,500 to 760,000 barrels per day. In May 2012, North Dakota surpassed Alaska to become the second largest oil-producing state in the US after Texas.