We’ve written exhaustively on this site about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in regards to natural gas drilling, and the environmental problems posed by that extraction method. But fracking can also be used to drill for oil, which may pose some of the same health and environmental risks.
According to a report from the Society of Environmental Journalists, oil fracking is already occurring or is being explored in many states, including California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming. According to a report from the Associated Press, by 2015, oil executives and analysts say the new fields tapped by fracking could yield as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day – more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.
Proponents of oil fracking make many of the same arguments in favor of the method that have already been made in regards to natural gas drilling – namely, that it could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. With gasoline prices once again flirting with $4.00/gallon, the argument will likely resonate with many consumers.
According to the Society of Environmental Journalists, areas that are already experiencing interest in oil fracking include: the Avalon/Leonard Shale, in southeast New Mexico and west-central Texas; the Bakken Shale, in Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, Canada; the Eagle Shale in South Texas; the Monterey Shale in California; and the Niobrara Shale in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
Many of the same energy companies involved in natural gas fracking are also pursuing oil fracking, including Anadarko, Cabot Oil and Gas, Chesapeake Energy and Encana, and Talisman. Many of these companies have been targets of environmental groups due to concerns about their natural gas fracking practices, and some have been named in lawsuits claiming that their natural gas drilling has resulted in water contamination.
Oil fracking has also been associated with its share of accidents. Just this past November, a fracking fluid spill in North Dakota at an oil well operated by Whiting Petroleum Corporation had regulators there promising to review the state’s drilling regulations. Just months prior, in September, an oil well blowout near Kildeere, North Dakota resulted in a 2,500 gallon spill. The oil well, which was operated by Sanely Corp., of Canada, was located atop the Kildeere Aquaduct.
According to a report from the Bismarck Tribune, there are a record 159 drilling rigs in North Dakota, and oil production there is at an all-time high.