Fracking/Sand mining

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Frack mining/sand mining or hydraulic fracturing is a booming way of getting energy. It is the process of high volumes of water, sand, and chemicals are injected under high pressure into shale to create fractures. This then allows them to get at the natural gas that they can get from the fractures that they made. [1] In Wisconsin we don't necessarily have much of the Fracking going on in our state, but rather provide the sand that is needed for this process to happen. Sand mining can have negative impacts even if the fracking is happening in the same state. This can affect the water around it and cause issues to the wild life around the rivers or the people who depend on the water around it.

Background of Fracking/Sand mining

How fracking and sand mining link together

Fracking and Sand mining go together because without the sand the fracking process couldn't be completed. This is because once the geologic formations filled with gas and oil are opened up, you must use something to keep them propped open. This is where the frack sand comes into play. Without using this sand to keep it open it would close and the process could not be completed. The sand is so important because of how much is needed for these formations to stay open, it takes up to 10,000 tons of sand just to keep each well open. This is not just any type of sand that you can find anywhere either, right now in the United States, you mainly find the big amounts of this sand called "silica" sand near the Great Lakes, which is why Wisconsin plays a massive role in this industry right now. . [2]

When did this start?

The idea of Fracking has been around for a while now, many have tried their hand and making rocks crack underground with high pressures of water, so that they could get the oil and gas out. The issue was nobody was really successful at actually doing this until the 90's. Once this started happening the need for the silica sand started to increase. We did however see others try this similar type of fracking earlier in history, it just wasn't quite as developed as it is now, I have actually found that this was something going on as early as the Civil War time period. The impact it had back then is nothing compared to what it is now though, because of the scale that it is done on now. Now a days they have found better ways to keep the cracks open longer with using non-explosive acid, instead of what they were using before that which was Nitroglycerin. .[3]

How is Wisconsin is involved?

Although Wisconsin doesn't appear to have any crude oil or natural gas reserves, it has had 90 issued permits for new frac sand mining sites. The sand to this whole process is so important, so Wisconsin having so many sites to get this sand from is a big deal. This does create money and jobs for Wisconsin, but also sand mining doesn't come with out a price for the environment, so in the next few years we might be seeing the effects of this near us. Just because we don't have any of the sites that the Hydraulic fracking actually happens doesn't mean we are not being impacted by the process at all. In order to get this sand they have to often take a large amount of what is called topsoil, doing so can cause problems to water near by, this means that wildlife around all of this or in the water is being effected by it even if it doesn't seem like it. You must also be careful where you are getting this sand from, taking sand from important places that might be helping keeping bridges or river banks together can be dangerous in many ways.

How this impacts Wisconsin's environment

The process of fracking is the main thing that effects the land the most, but part of that is the process to get the required sand which doesn't go without it's own risks to the environment and lives around it. With Wisconsin having the most of the sites in the United States that had the sand that they need for this, this needs to be a topic that we need to think about. Do we want everyone to depend on us for this sand to help them get the energy they need, if it's going to be hurting our land and nature around us? The sand mining can be very destructive because of how the process requires the removal of the top soil, in order to do this it takes explosions and takes away many things that the land requires to grow and be healthy.


References

  1. Sand Point times, Sandpointtimes.com 2015, http://www.sandpointtimes.com/basics/definitions.asp
  2. Earth works article https://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/frac_sand_mining#.WQJIOlPyuLI
  3. Russell Gold, Huffington post, May 23, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/when-did-the-energy-indus_b_5019285.html

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