Fracking, fracing, hydrofracking and hydro-fracing are all the various names for the drilling approach known as hydraulic fracturing. In this process, oil field services pump millions of gallons of water while drilling at the same time to add more pressure in the shale rock causing the dense rock formation to crack. When it cracks, the drills reach the deposits and release the natural gas.
Federal and state authorities have concerns about the drilling process because of its potential effect on local freshwater supplies. So Federal and state authorities are investigating the techniques to see if it needs to regulate the drill process. If they do regulate the drilling, then it becomes a problem for oil and gas companies.
Even Exxon took precaution by adding a protective clause in its contract to buy XTO Energy, Inc. that allows the big oil company to exit out of the deal. XTO Energy Inc. is a pioneer in hydraulic fracturing. Environmentalists fear the chemicals mixing with local freshwater could contaminate drinking water. Natural gas companies use the chemicals to lower friction, destroy bacteria and reduce mineral build up. While the chemicals make up less than 1% of the solution, it may be enough to be hazardous.
To further complicate things, not all hazards happen the same way for all wells. It depends on the depth of the shale and the location of the drills from freshwater aquifers. Industry representatives say there has never been an incident directly tied with fracturing. However, regulators have connected incidents with oil and gas drilling. Some environmental groups also think some wells were not properly constructed. The natural gas industry uses millions of gallons of liquids for each well whereas it only used hundreds of thousands of gallons before improving the technology.
Exxon will back out of its deal with XTO Energy if the government bans hydraulic fracturing or regulates it that it becomes economically infeasible. In a hearing, Exxon Chairman and Chief Executive spoke about the merger to House Energy and Commerce Committee members on Capitol Hill. He focused on the benefits of increasing natural gas production and did not discuss concerns about the drilling process.
In June 2009, congress introduced legislation to regulate fracturing at the federal level. Then In October 2009, the house asked the Environmental Protection Agency to review the risks of fracturing. Because states have different rules for regulating oil and gas, representatives believe there is a need for federal regulation and involvement.