Script: What is fracking?

Script: What is fracking?

Do you know what the word ‘fracking’ means? It doesn’t come up very often in daily conversation. But it is an important word, and people who know what it means have strong views either for or against.

Voice 1: Fracking is the process of drilling down into layers of rock below the earth's surface to extract gas or oil trapped within that rock. A high-powered machine drills either vertically or horizontally into the rock causing it to fracture. Then a mixture of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high speed, forcing out the natural gas and oil. The oil and gas is then pumped to the surface through wells.

Voice 2: The developed world uses a massive amount of gas and oil as energy, and fracking is one of the growing methods used by energy companies to harvest the earth’s natural resources for humans to use.

Voice 1: Fracking has been going on on a small scale for sixty-five years, but during the last few years sites have expanded. The combination of advanced technology and the invention of machines that can drill through rock horizontally instead of downwards has brought about a massive surge in extracting oil and natural gas by fracking.

Voice 2: Modern fracking involves drilling a couple thousand metres down into tight rock formations before turning horizontally and continuing for several thousand more metres. Once the well is inside the rock, small holes are made in the horizontal section of the well pipe and a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped in at high pressure to fracture the rock.

Voice 1: The natural gas and oil from inside the rock is then pumped to the surface.

Voice 2: Fracking is big business in the United States. The technique has caused a revolution in the country’s energy business because it is so successful. It has been estimated that more than sixty per cent of recent oil and gas wells in the USA have involved fracking. But at what cost to the environment?

Voice 1: Statistics from North America show that six percent of fracking wells leak immediately. Environmentalists are concerned about the contamination of drinking water, risks to air quality and surface contamination from spills. Lord Smith, former chair of Britain’s Environment Agency has said that the biggest risk posed by fracking is the risk of water contamination.

Voice 2: Britain has vast underground gas reserves in rocks under ground. At present, fracking is not allowed, but tests are being carried out to explore the possibilities.

Voice 1: In 2011, an energy company suspended test fracking operations near the English seaside resort of Blackpool after two small earthquakes of one point fives and 2.2 magnitude hit the area. A subsequent study found it was ‘highly probable’ that fracking into the rock under the area had caused the earthquakes. The quakes were too small to cause damage, but they did occur, and in a part of the world where quakes are rare.

Voice 2: Fracking is a controversial topic. The technique does damage the earth, even if that damage is many kilometres below the surface. Many questions need to be asked and answered before fracking is considered safe or even desirable. It is too important an issue for us to ignore.

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