Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used in one step of the extraction of energy resources. Sometimes referred to as "fracking," its wide application over the last decade has led to debate over its risks and benefits.

Basics

Oil derrick in the Williston Basin, North Dakota. Image Credit: Joshua Doubek, Licensed under Creative Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Hydraulic fracturing opens narrow cracks in rock layers in order to allow oil, gas, or water to flow through the rock. During hydraulic fracturing, pressurized fluid is injected through a well into a subsurface rock layer in order to open the fractures. Hydraulic fracturing requires large volumes of water mixed with chemicals and proppants (often sand, used to "prop" open the fractures). These fluids must be recycled or disposed of in deep wells, separate from local water tables.[1]   Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

Latest News

Natural gas pump
(2017-03-06)
February 7, 2017 Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced the Federal Land Freedom Act (S.335) and the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands Act (S.334) on February 7. These bills remove the authority of federal decision-makers to manage  energy resources on public lands. Sen....
Drilling rig
(2016-10-11)
September 6, 2016 On September 6, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued an order to the Obama Administration calling for further environmental review of the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California. The order comes in the wake of a Bureau of Land...
Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
(2016-10-11)
September 8, 2016 House and Senate conferees for the Energy Policy Modernization Act met this September to discuss the progress they had made on reconciling the House (H.R. 8) and Senate (S. 2012) versions of the bill. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R - AK), author of the Senate version of the bill and...
Drilling rig
(2016-08-25)
August 11, 2016 The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) released its final report assessing EPA’s recent study of potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas on drinking water resources. Congress requested the study in 2009, and EPA released its draft...
Drilling rig
(2016-06-30)
June 24, 2016 The U.S. District Court for Wyoming ruled that the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have no authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” on public and tribal lands. In 2015, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, as...
Natural gas pump
(2015-08-06)
July 15, 2015 At a July 15 hearing held by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Neil Kornze, Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), testified on BLM’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands. Representatives inquired...
U.S. Supreme Court building
(2015-07-08)
June 24, 2015 A federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Wyoming has placed a hold on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new rules for hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. The BLM originally proposed these rules in 2012 to address underground injection of wastewater, which is currently the...
Drilling rig
(2015-03-04)
February 17, 2015 The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a report on February 17 that examines trends in the spatial distribution, treatment fluids, additives, proppants, and water volumes for nearly 1 million hydraulically fractured wells and 1.8 million fracturing treatments during...
Drilling rig
(2015-02-03)
January 5, 2015 A report released January 5 by the Seismological Society of America (SSA) links hydraulic fracturing to earthquakes experienced in Ohio in 2014. Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting pressurized fluids into wellbores to open fractures in rock that release natural gas or...
Drilling rig
(2014-12-01)
November 5, 2014 During midterm elections, ballots in several states included measures to ban hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional drilling techniques. Voters approved four bans and rejected four bans which would limit industry use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a well-stimulation...

Case Studies & Factsheets

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the Tarrant and Johnson counties case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on natural gas production in Tarrant and Johnson Counties, Texas can...

Screenshot of the USEITI case studies showing the DeSoto Parish case study highlighted
U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

The U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) has produced a series of case studies on extractive industries across the United States, focusing on coal, copper, gold, iron, natural gas, and oil. The case study on natural gas production in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana can be found...

Research Database Publications

Cover of OFR15-04; Source: Arizona Geological Survey
2015, Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS)
Nearly pure quartz sands have become increasingly important for oil and gas production. Although used for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) since at least the 1950s, the advent of directional drilling and improvements in hydraulic fracturing techniques have led to widespread exploitation of quartz...
Cover of FS-015 ; Source: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
2015, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI)
Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Department of Environmental Quality, and Water Resources Department regulate and issue permits for the drilling and operation of oil or gas wells, including wells drilled using hydraulic fracturing technology, commonly known as fracking.
Cover of RI-112; Source: North Dakota Geological Survey
2013, North Dakota Geological Survey (NDGS)
The vast majority of oil wells that are being drilled in the Williston Basin employ hydraulic fracturing as a completion technique. These wells use, on average, three to five million pounds of proppant, be it natural sand or ceramic beads, to keep these fractures open. Because of the tremendous...
Cover of U.S. Geological Survey_2015-1107; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
A new mineral rush is underway in the upper Midwest of the United States, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota, for deposits of high-quality frac sand that the mining industry calls “Northern White” sand or “Ottawa” sand. Frac sand is a specialized type of sand that is added to fracking fluids...
Cover of RI-110; Source: North Dakota Geological Survey
2011, North Dakota Geological Survey (NDGS)
An investigation into the potential use of sands found in North Dakota as natural proppants for use in the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells in the Williston Basin was conducted during the 2009-2011 biennium. The intent of this investigation was to characterize selected sand sources for...
Cover image of position paper; Image credit: NGWA
2017, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Hydrofracturing of water wells is different than hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas production. While there are some similarities there are many differences, and the two should not be confused with each other. Our concern now is policymakers may unknowingly link the two practices together under...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2017, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
Energy use for water is a function of many variables, including water source. The energy costs for groundwater include the cost to lift the groundwater to the surface. Groundwater sources typically use about 30 percent more energy than do surface water supplies.
Cover of U.S. Geological Survey_2015-1117; Source: U.S. Geological Survey
2015, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The quantities of water and hydraulic fracturing proppant required for producing petroleum (oil, gas, and natural gas liquids) from continuous accumulations, and the quantities of water extracted during petroleum production, can be quantitatively assessed using a probabilistic approach. The water...
Cover image of position paper; Image credit: NGWA
2017, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) is the largest association of groundwater professionals in the world. Our members include leading public and private sector groundwater scientists, engineers, water well contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers of groundwater-related products and...
Cover image of factsheet Image credit: NGWA
2016, National Ground Water Association (NGWA)
As oil and gas development increases around the country, NGWA reminds water well owners about the importance of testing their water wells prior to oil and gas well installation. This provides a baseline for comparison after oil and gas production.