(Probable Question: What do you understand by the term ‘fracking’ in the context of exploration of unconventional hydrocarbons? What are the risks associated with ‘fracking’? – 150 words.)
Authors: Armin Rosencranz and Shubham Jhangu
Shale gas and oil are unconventional natural resources found at 2,500-5,000 m below the earth’s surface, as compared to conventional crude oil found at 1,500 m.
What is ‘fracking’?
The process of extracting shale oil and gas requires deep vertical drilling followed by horizontal drilling. The most common way to extract shale gas is ‘hydraulic fracturing’ (fracking), where high volumes of water mixed with certain chemicals are pushed down to break the rocks and release the trapped energy minerals.
Positive impacts of ‘fracking’:
Fracking is bound to have positive economic and political impacts.
Economic advantages – Fracking is the most efficient technology available for the extraction of shale gas which is present at a considerable depth inside the earth’s crust. In the U.S., where shale gas has been commercially exploited for two decades, the prices of fuel and electricity have dropped.
Political advantages – Also, due to a weak monopoly of Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the US also has had political advantages.
Similarly, if India commercially exploits shale deposits, it could meet its ever-increasing energy demand, decrease oil and gas imports, and improve the balance of payments.
Negative impacts of ‘fracking’:
Impact on groundwater – fracking consumes large amounts of water (average 15,000 m3/well) and relatively larger surface area, it is bound to impact irrigation and other local requirements. Also, there is a high risk of pollution to nearby underground water due to the use of carcinogenic chemicals in the process.
Fracking has other impacts such as increased air emissions (including greenhouse gases) and seismic activity. Environmental impact assessments of the European Union and the U.K. have recognised these risks.
Countries like Germany and France and subnational governments like Scotland have banned fracking.
Every person has the right to enjoy pollution-free water and air. It is also an established principle that the state holds its natural resources in trust for the benefit of the people, and has the duty to protect these resources from harm. If the risk from fracking to underground water materialises, courts can hold the state responsible for it, stop the activity, and order other corrective and preventive measures.
The Model Bill for the Conservation, Protection, Regulation and Management of Groundwater, 2016, sets a priority for use of groundwater — right to water for life, and water to achieve “food security, supporting sustenance agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and eco-system needs”.
Read the full article at The Hindu.