Book Review: Just the Fracks, Ma’am The Truth about Hydrofracking and the Next Great American Boom

Just the Fracks coverThis book, by engineer and environmentalist Greg Kozera, debunks some of the myths about hydrofracking.

Kozera pulls no punches in this book. In the introduction he takes on the Movie “Gasland” which featured someone lighting the methane from his water faucet, an act design to scare people. However, methane has been known to be in the water of that area long before there was fracking. In fact, Salt Springs State Park, PA, is there because of the phenomenon, known for 200 years before fracking began.

“Since 1947, more than one million wells have been fracked with few incidents. Hydrofracking has added millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas to our energy reserves. It has allowed us to heat our homes and run our cars. Over 90 percent of
the wells in the United States require fracking to be productive.”

Kozera gives detailed discussions of the five biggest myths, and four others, that are hobbling honest debate in the United States:

Myth #1: Fracking is a drilling technique.
Actually, it’s a method to improve oil and gas production from a well after it’s drilled. From there, the well is evaluated and the geology is reviewed. Production from the well – if there’s any – is monitored with an electric evaluation log that’s run on most vertical wells and is used to help decide if and how a well should be fracked. After the evaluation is complete, then and only then is the decision made to frack a well and how it should be done.

Myth #2: Fracking is new.
Fracking is nothing new; in 1947, the oil and gas industry discovered the method as a way of improving production in the country’s oil wells. In fact, more than 90 percent of the wells drilled in the United States have required fracking for gas and oil.

Kozera says, “Without fracturing, we would have no significant domestic oil industry and we’d have to rely on imports for nearly 100 percent for our fuel and transportation.

Myth #3: Fracking is explosive.
The original way that wells were stimulated, going back into the 1800s, involved a process known as “shooting,” wherein explosives were lowered into the well and set off, causing an explosion down the hole that would create a small cavern. Shooting was dangerous, involving a horse-drawn wagon filled with nitroglycerin, which can be very unstable. Hydraulic fracturing replaced shooting because it is safer and far more effective. Fracking is not explosive.

Myth #4: Fracking causes earthquakes.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the U.S. averages more than 1.3 million earthquakes exceeding a magnitude of 2.0 annually based on data gathered from 1900 to 1999. Remember, fracking didn’t begin until 1947. Earthquakes are very common and have occurred within Earth’s crust for as long as there has been a crust.

Myth #5: Fracking contaminates groundwater.
This is a major concern of the public – and understandably so. Clean drinking water is critical to life. However, if fracking contaminates drinking water, it would have done so long before now.

Myth #6: Fracking Is Unregulated.
Fracking is heavily regulated, especially at a state level. We are hearing a lot of demands that fracking needs to be regulated at a federal level by the EPA. State regulators have a far bigger reason to have strong and sensible regulations because they live in the state they regulate. Their families must breathe the air and drink the water.

We simply cannot frack up thousands of feet through solid rock. We know that rock is porous and fracturing fluids leak off into the rock and naturally induced fractures. As fluid leaks off, however, the fracture eventually quits growing in height and length, and ultimately does not reach our water sources.

And my favorite, Myth #7: You can trust the EPA and its science.
“…in recent years it appears the EPA is more concerned about politics than science.” Kozera has much more to say about the EPA.

Myth #8: Fracking causes breast cancer, baldness, homosexuality, stress etc.

Myth #9: We don’t need to frack. Wind and solar power will take care of us.

Chapter Three is a good, detailed explanation of fracking in layman’s terms. “The shale reservoirs we have today have a lot of natural gas trapped in them, but they also have very low porosity and permeability. Fracking is the highway we use to release the natural gas in the shale.” Fracking cracks the rock to provide that highway by pumping a fluid, under pressure into the rock. Typically the fluid is a mixture of water, a foam made from water and nitrogen, and nitrogen gas. Sand is added to keep the cracks open. Chemicals like soap are used to help place the sand by reducing friction. Fracking fluids and produced natural gas are kept separate from groundwater by both distance and by steel pipe and cement.

Besides “just the facts” Kozera puts a personal touch to his narrative derived from his 35-year career in the oil and gas industry and his concern for the environment (he has a master’s degree in environmental engineering). The book is written in plain, non-technical language. It is a quick read that at 103 pages can be completed in one sitting, and is well worth the time.

“The main focus of this book was the truth about hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but the real subject was our future. What will our future look like? That depends on us and how we see it right now.”

The book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books.