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May 8th, 2013 (8:16 AM).
Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of various rock layers by a pressurized liquid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fracing, fraccing, or fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.
The first experimental use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, and the first commercially successful applications in 1949. As of 2010, it was estimated that 60% of all new oil and gas wells worldwide were being hydraulically fractured. As of 2012, 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed on oil and gas wells worldwide, more than one million of them in the United States.
Proponents of hydraulic fracturing point to the economic benefits from vast amounts of formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons the process can extract. Opponents point to potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, depletion of fresh water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flow-back and the health effects of these. For these reasons hydraulic fracturing has come under scrutiny internationally, with some countries suspending or banning it. However, some of those countries, including most notably the United Kingdom, have recently lifted their bans, choosing to focus on strong regulations instead of outright prohibition.
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