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Source: istock

How Fracking Affects the Environment and Public Health

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Most people have heard of fracking — or at least seen clever signs from environmentalists demanding that we “get the frack out of here.” And while most of us know that fracking is an issue tied to the environment, understanding exactly what fracking is, how it works, and how it affects our planet can be a bit confusing.

Read on for all the fracking basics you need to know.

What Is Fracking?

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Source: istock

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, and also known as horizontal drilling, is a method of drilling for oil or natural gas that lays deep underground, typically 1 to 2 miles beneath the surface. 

As explained by LiveScience, fracking begins by sending a drill underground, either straight down or at an angle, to form a well. The well is encased in either cement or steel to prevent it from leaking. Then, the drill begins drilling horizontally through the shale rock formation, where natural gas is laying miles beneath the surface. 

Once the drill is deep enough, the “fracking” begins — pressurized “slickwater” (hence the term “hydraulic”), which is a mixture of mostly water along with some chemicals, salts, and other additives (the industry often keeps the exact formulations under wraps), is pushed into the underground rock formation at a high speed, CNN explains. The pressurized liquid fractures the rock to pieces and releases the oil or natural gas for extraction.