By MIKE SORAGHAN of Greenwire
Published: May 13, 2011
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," got a clean bill of health this week in the first scientific look at the safety of the oil and production practice.
But the headlines about the study did not always reflect that. Many, such as "Scientific Study Links Flammable Drinking Water to Fracking," pointed toward the fracturing process as a culprit. Even the press release accompanying the study was titled "Hydrofracking Changes Water Wells."
Confused? Many people are, even some in the thick of the debate.
The problem is that "fracking" means different things to different people.
People in the oil and gas industry commonly say "fracking" to describe just one part of the whole gas exploration and production process. Chemical-laced water and sand are blasted underground to break apart rock and release gas. Purists would say it is not really even part of "drilling" but actually the "completion" phase.
"Fracking and drilling are not the same thing," said University of Houston engineering professor Michael Economides, who consults for drillers on fracturing. "We drill wells. Then we frack."