Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing is a government-regulated technology

What is Hydraulic Fracturing or "fracking"

Hydraulic fracturing is a government-regulated technology used safely for more than 60 years to recover shale or tight natural gas that is trapped in deep underground rock. After a well has been drilled, a mixture of mainly water and sand, and a small amount of additives is injected into the well at high pressure to create tiny finger-like fractures in the rock. The fractures are propped open by the grains of sand to allow the natural gas to flow to the surface. Additives are used in part to limit bacterial growth and prevent corrosion. Regulations in British Columbia and Alberta require producers to disclose publicly the additives used in hydraulic fracturing on a well-by-well basis, which can be found on FracFocus.

Body Explore Topics Hydraulic Fracturing Horn River Frac Operation Credit Devon

Photo Courtesy of Devon Energy

Hydraulic Fracturing - How it works

1. Drilling the Well

Unconventional natural gas reserves are typically located between two and three kilometres below the earth’s surface and hundreds of metres deeper than the deepest drinkable groundwater.

2. Surface Casing

Steel casing is inserted and cemented in place creating a solid barrier between the well and any underground water sources. Cement is pumped into the wellbore where it surrounds the casing. This creates a solid barrier around the well.

3. Intermediate Casing

Intermediate casing extends even deeper below any fresh water sources and provides an additional layer to the production casing.

4. Horizontal Drilling

Horizontal drilling techniques extend the well hundreds of metres into the formation to maximize the production zone and allow more natural gas to be extracted from each well, reducing surface impacts.

5. Perforating the Wellbore

Prior to fracturing, the wellbore casing is perforated to provide an entry point for the natural gas to flow. When the perforations are made, the rock cracks.

6. Fracturing

Once the cracks in the shale have been created, fracturing fluid is pumped down the well under pressure which fractures the shale rock. These factures extend between 50 and 100 metres from the horizontal leg of the wellbore. When the fracturing is complete, the sand props open the fractures to provide a pathway for the natural gas to flow into the wellbore more easily.