The hydraulic fracturing process – also referred to as ‘fraccing’ or ‘fracking’ – is used to increase the flow of oil and gas to a well, increasing production and reducing the total number of wells needed to develop a resource. It allows commercialisation of low permeability reservoirs in which oil and gas do not easily flow.
Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping a fluid down the well at high pressure to open tiny cracks in the target rock reservoir.
This fluid contains ‘proppants’, primarily sand, which is used to hold the fissures open and improve the flow of gas or oil.
Most fluid contains less than 1% of chemical additives to make the technique more efficient. The chemical additives are not unique to the oil and gas industry and are found in many household products, such as toothpaste, baked goods, ice cream, food additives, detergents and soap.
While the proppants remain behind in the rock formation, most of the injected fluid either breaks down into harmless materials (such as starch or water) or is removed and carefully collected at the surface.