When layers of buried animals, plants and gases from for thousands of years are subjected to extreme heat and pressure, it produces natural gas. Natural gas consists of more methane and alkanes than it has nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Natural gas is a form of energy used for heating, cooking, electricity generation, fuel for vehicles and as a constituent of plastic. This energy is non-sustainable and will therefore be depleted. Other environmental and health concerns are that drilling too deep might cause contamination in the waterways underground. Fractioning may also cause air contamination as it produces gases that can be harmful to health.
In the United States, natural-gas production from shale rock has increased by more than 700 percent since 2007. Yet scientists still do not fully understand the industry's effects on nature and wildlife, according to a report in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
A group of eight preservation biologists from different organizations and institutions including Princeton University decided that identifying the impact of gas-drilling spots to the environment such as chemical contamination from spills, well-casing catastrophes and other accidents, must be of main priority.
With shale-gas production projected to surge during the next 30 years, the authors call on scientists, industry representatives and policymakers to cooperate on determining — and minimizing — the damage inflicted on the natural world by gas operations such as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” A major environmental concern, hydraulic fracturing releases natural gas from shale by breaking the rock up with a high-pressure blend of water, sand and other chemicals, which can include carcinogens and radioactive substances.
The researchers found that there are significant “knowledge gaps” when it comes to direct and quantifiable evidence of how the natural world responds to shale-gas operations. A major impediment to research has been the lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the composition of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 American states with active shale-gas reservoirs, only five — Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Texas — maintain public records of spills and accidents, the researchers report.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's website is one of the best sources of publicly available information on shale-gas spills and accidents in the nation. Even so, gas companies failed to report more than one-third of spills in the last year,” said first author Sara Souther, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
There were many spills that occurred and were not detected during well inspection. A more precise data is needed on the emission of chemicals from fractioning into the environment before an understanding its impacts to plants and animals can be derived.
Among the identified threats to animal and plant life identified, the greatest one is the effect of fast and prevalent shale expansion. It created an imbalance on rural and natural areas. A lone gas well will wipe clean 3.7 to 7.6 acres (1.5 to 3.1 hectares) of vegetation. Each well also promotes to a combined build of air, water, light, and noise pollution that is harmful to health of animals’ health, habitats and reproduction.
“If you look down on a heavily ‘fracked' landscape, you see a web of well pads, access roads and pipelines that create islands out of what was, in some cases, contiguous habitat,” Souther said. “What are the combined effects of numerous wells and their supporting infrastructure on wide-ranging or sensitive species, like the pronghorn antelope or the hellbender salamander?”
The fracturing fluid and wastewaters’ chemical composition is unknown. Authors studied chemical-disclosure accounts for 150 wells in three of the top gas-harvesting states and discovered that two out of three wells in average were fractured with at least one anonymous chemical. The accurate result of fracturing fluid on natural water ways as well as drinking water supplies is still uncertain despite improper disposal of wastewater and pollution-prevention measured are among the top documented desecrations at drilling sites.
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