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Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking Information: What Is Fracking?


Hydraulic fracturing: Fracturing of rock at depth with fluid pressure. Hydraulic fracturing at depth may be accomplished by pumping water into a well at very high pressures. Under natural conditions, vapor pressure may rise high enough to cause fracturing in a process known as hydrothermal brecciation. (EIA Glossary)

Concerns of Hydraulic Fracturing

EPA states on its website, Natural Gas Extraction - Hydraulic Fracturing, "some concerns associated with overall natural gas and shale gas extraction, including hydraulic fracturing, are already well known. These operations can result in a number of potential impacts to the environment, including:

  • Stress on surface water and ground water supplies from the withdrawal of large volumes of water used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing;
  • Contamination of underground sources of drinking water and surface waters resulting from spills, faulty well construction, or by other means;
  • Adverse impacts from discharges into surface waters or from disposal into underground injection wells; and
  • Air pollution resulting from the release of volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, and greenhouse gases."

FracFocus: Chemical Disclosure Registry

FracFocus, managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, was created to provide the public access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their area. To help users put this information into perspective, the site also provides objective information on hydraulic fracturing, the chemicals used, the purposes they serve and the means by which groundwater is protected.

Results of Hydraulic Fracturing

Don Stowers, editor of Oil & Gas Financial Journal, quoted from a report by Dr. Joseph Stanislaw, who states:

 "The United States has become the number-one producer of natural gas in the world. This is due to combining horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies, a combination that has been in widespread use for just four years – and that has allowed gas from shale formations to go from accounting for just 2% of America's natural gas production in 2001 to over 30% today."

Stowers writes,  "There are numerous challenges to overcome to achieve energy independence, not the least of which is a perception among many in the public that the oil and gas industry is greedy, doesn't care about the environment, and doesn't have their interests at heart."   Stowers, D. (2012) Technology driving U.S. energy revolutionOil & Gas Financial Journal 9(7) 

History of Hydraulic Fracturing

Carl T. Montgomery and Michael B. Smith report in the 2010 article Hydraulic Fracturing:  History of an enduring technology  from the Journal of Petroleum Technology that Stanolind Oil introduced hydraulic fracturing in 1949 after testing the 'Hydrafrac' process in 1947 in Grand County, Kansas.  A patent was issued in 1949, with an exclusive license granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company (Howco) to pump the new Hydrafrac process.

Breaking Fuel from Rock

This National Geographic interactive feature shows the drilling technique used by some energy producers to unlock natural gas from shale rock.

Typical Hydraulic Fracturing Operation

Investigative journalists at ProPublica provide a graphic representation of the process.

Source: ProPublica,

Fact Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development

The Energy Institute at the University of Texas Austin issued this 2012 report about the three principal shale gas areas of the U.S. - Barnett shale in Texas, the Haynesville shale in East Texas and Louisiana, and the Marcellus shale in several states in the eastern U.S. - covering four topics:

   News Coverage & Public Perceptions of Hydraulic Fracturing

   Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Development

   Regulation of Shale Gas Development

   State Enforcement of Shale Gas Development Regulation