Saturday, January 23, 2010

What is Fracking?

Like many people, I've been following the debate about whether Cornell should allow natural gas drilling on its land, but didn't really understand what the process was until reading this article in Campus Progress:

The drilling process is complex and controversial. To extract the gas, energy companies drill vertically into the ground then horizontally underground. This horizontal section of the well is perforated by a small explosion. Millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the well, and the pressure from the water causes cracks and fissures in the shale. These cracks allow the natural gas to be pumped out from the well. This process is called hyrdofracking, or fracking for short, and it is the focus of so much of the controversy.

The chemicals used to frack the wells are a trade secret, and combined with the millions of gallons of water needed, the Cornell community is concerned about the environmental effects.

Campus Progress, as a liberal group, focuses on the potentially negative environmental consequences of drilling. Cornell, to its credit, seems set on refusing to allow drilling:
“We don’t expect that Cornell will lease its land for gas drilling in the foreseeable future,” says Simeon Moss, deputy spokesperson for the university.

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