Hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) is a technique to maximize the release of natural gas and oil from source rocks such as shale. After a well is drilled and properly cased, it is hydraulically fractured.
The process begins by deploying explosive charges down the well to the target location. Detonating those charges create small fissures in the rock, which are subsequently enlarged by high pressure injection of "fracking" fluid. This fluid is more than 99 percent water and sand with a small amount of chemical additives.
The chemicals inhibit growth of micro-organisms and the development of mineral deposits that would impede gas flow. The sand grains physically prop open the newly created cracks in the rock, and allow the oil and gas to flow freely.
Hydraulic fracturing has been used in Michigan for more than 50 years to enhance oil and gas production from traditional vertical wells. Conventional vertical wells require about 50,000 gallons of fracking fluid. The deeper and longer horizontal wells require about 5 million gallons.
Recent use of this technology in deeper, horizontal wells has opened vast new gas reserves to economical production throughout the USA. The natural gas industry has been very supportive of the technique in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In Michigan, the Antrim Shale has been well developed conventional vertical wells drilled at a depth of about 2,000 feet using hydraulic fracturing. The Collingwood Shale development has several hydraulically fractured horizontal wells at depths of about 10,000 feet with horizontal extensions of 5,000-7,500 feet.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is part of the Department of Energy, provides up-to-date information about the growing industry in fracking.
Here are some additional resources:
- Energy Kids
- EIA International Energy Outlook
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - Fracturing Q&A
- Hydraulic Fracturing in Michigan
- DTE Energy’s Gathering & Processing in Pennsylvania and New York