Blog Description

Fraccing With Two C's is a blog focused on the highly controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing stimulation in the oil and gas industry. The title of this blog stems from the slang term for hydraulic fracturing as it is spelled in the oil and gas industry, which differs from that commonly used in the media and by the general public, 'fracking'. Fracture stimulation is also commonly referred to as fracing, but at Colorado School of Mines the Petroleum Engineering Department generally spells the slang term with two c's.

This blog will address some of the concerns, misconceptions, and recent news on this topic. Though personal opinions are present, we will remain factual and provide evidence for all discussions. We welcome comments of all sorts, whether they agree or disagree with our opinions, as long as they are appropriate for a classroom setting, since this is a project for a science communication course.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frack Free Colorado

Being the nerd that I am, I adore Discovery Channel's Mythbusters. What geek doesn't?! On this show, a group of scientists and engineers get together and test myths to see if they are actually true. I thought it would be fun to do a little Mythbustsers blog on a recent protesting event in Colorado. Last week, Denver hosted an event called Frack Free Colorado to inform the public of the dangers of hydraulic fracture stimulation. The event website has a series of facts on hydraulic fracturing and says the event consisted of "a free concert, world-renowned speakers, good ole fashioned protesting & solutions." I want to look at some of these facts a little, Mythbuster style.

Frack Free Colorado Website as documented by Fractivist Blog on Blogger

Fact 1: "Colorado doesn't have enough water. 2-8 million gallons of fresh water are used per well. There are over 48,000 active wells in Colorado. [That equals] half a million olympic sized swimming pools."

Mythbusting: Hydraulic fracturing does use a lot of water, but not every well requires fracture stimulation! The first oil field in Colorado was discovered in 1881 but modern hydraulic fracturing wasn't even put in use until the nineties. Some wells have an economic life of over fifty years, so its likely that out of the 48,000 wells in Colorado, a lot have never received modern fracture stimulation. Also, most companies do everything that they can to re-use completion fluids. Obtaining so much water is expensive and often quite a hassle, so recycling water for multiple wells reduces the concern of massive water volume usage. So, while it is true that frac jobs use a lot of water, it isn't nearly that much!

Fact 2: "Of the 300+ chemicals presumed in fracking fluids: 40% are endocrine distributers, 30% are suspected carcinogens, more than 30% are developmental toxicants, [and] over 60% can harm the brain and nervous system"

Mythbusting: In traditional hydraulic fracture stimulation, there are a lot of chemicals used. Chemicals can be added to the frac fluid for many reasons, be it inhibiting bacteria that is in the water from growing in the well or reducing the viscosity of the fluid (making it easier to push down the hole). As with any field though, improved technology is reducing the number of chemicals used in frac fluid. More companies are working towards "green frac fluid," some of which Halliburton's CEO is willing to drink

Fact 3: "Fracking is worse for human, environmental, and climate health than coal"

Mythbusting: Frack Free Colorado gets this fact from Shane Davis, an volunteer research biologist for the Sierra Club. The link in the reference brings you to a blog called the Fractivist. This blog, which also posted on the Frack Free Colorado event, has many bold claims and facts in their posts, but no references for the data, making it difficult to track this fact. Since I cannot play mythbusters with the sources used for this fact, I will share what I know on this topic. Hydraulic fracturing is required for the economic production for most of the natural gas in America. Natural gas is a cleaner source of energy than coal,  "natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant [than coal.]" Hydraulic fracturing is a process that can assist the U.S. in achieving a greener energy portfolio. According to Science Daily, the increased production of natural gas, due to hydraulic fracturing in shale formations, has created a surplus of coal in our economy. The coal is being exported rather than being used in America, making the U.S. more "green." Coal is an extremely dirty energy source, natural gas is MUCH cleaner. 

There are a lot more facts from this website that I would love to look into a little more, but I don't want to make a three page post! Let me know if you see any that you would like to know more about!



  1. Great format for a post! Mythbusters is indeed a popular show. The one question I have is about the green claim...natural gas is indeed displacing some of the coal production, which is good in terms of GHGs. But there are two effects, called "blowback" effects," that my challenge this claim. The first is that much of the coal is still being produced (as you note) but shipped over seas, to be burned in China. So those GHGs are still going into the atmosphere (which we all share); this is hardly "green." Second, some fear that as energy gets cheaper, we will simply consumer more, thus raising our overall GHGs. I sort of think this will happen no matter what, but it's an interesting claim to consider.

  2. Jen, sorry it took me so long to get back to you! The notification got lost amid all of our blog fodder!

    I think this is a very valid point that you bring up, but in my opinion this is sort of unavoidable at the same time. Just because America is making an effort to convert to renewable, green energy, we can't demand the entire world follows suit. The coal industry will still have a place in the world, especially for countries that are more concerned with cheap energy than green energy. So whether less coal is being used domestically because of greener technologies or an increase in natural gas production, the coal will likely still be used as an energy source.

    I disagree with the theory that as energy gets cheaper, people will consume more. People are continuously consuming more and more as it becomes more of an essential part of our life...but I don't personally think to myself "Man, gas is cheap this week! I am going to drive around town a couple of times!" Although there is a huge increase in expected usage in the future, I think it should be considered more a function of the population size and the way everyday life is advancing and relying more on technology and energy. As the government subsidizes renewable energy sources though, I expect the increased energy wedge will mostly come from these subsidized source. A compromise between fossil fuels and renewable energy is the best way to keep up with the growing demand.