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Invented in the 1940s and now used in over 90 percent of U.S. drilling operations, hydraulic fracturing is a method of extraction of natural gas and oil that involves injecting fluid in high pressures in order to crack the geological formation such as rocks that contain the hydrocarbon. The fluid composition consists of 90 to 98 percent water, a proppant in order to keep fractures open, and a smaller percentage of chemical additives.
Hydraulic fracturing technology has had an impact on US energy and chemical production. The supply of natural gas has increased and the natural gas prices have reduced, resulting in the replacement of coal in most of US electricity generation. Due to this increased supply of natural gas and crude oil as well as their reduced cost, the chemical production of the United States has also been impacted. Through the chemical manufacturing supply chain, the propagation of natural gas can provide opportunities for innovation that result in an improved collection of products and improved lifecycle impacts. There are also several potential benefits, risk and concerns, and concerns from the public.
The benefits of hydraulic fracturing technology include recovering natural gas and crude oil in “unprecedented amounts” from shale deposits, leading to a lower price of natural gas and making it a more viable solution than coal. In addition, coal is one of the most harmful fuels in the world, and natural gas produces three times fewer carbon emissions than coal. It can even reduce water use, in comparison to other fossil fuels. Also, burning natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide that burning coal emits, does not release mercury and reduces SOx and NOx emissions.
Some of the risks and concerns as well concerns from the public include the following: exposure to toxic chemicals during drilling that can be harmful humans, groundwater contamination due to drilling, pollutants being released by drilling, earthquakes which are caused by the injection of fracking wastewater underground, and lastly air pollution. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 25 times more powerful in trapping heat in the atmosphere than is carbon dioxide. It is estimated that four percent of the methane produced by wells escapes into the atmosphere. Other concerns threats to the human health.
According to Janet Currie in “Hydraulic Fracturing and Infant Heath: New Evidence from Pennsylvania,” more than 1.1 million birth records were analyzed in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2013. Babies born to mothers living at different distances from the active “fracking” sites were compared. Evidence for negative health effects of in utero exposure to fracking sites 1 to 3 kilometers of the mother’s home was found. There is a greater probability of low-birth-weight babies, declines in the average birth weight, and other poor birth outcomes.
The main controversies the public is struggling with include the application of fracking on horizontal wells. This allows more area underground to be accessed compared to vertical wells, and it requires more water and fracking chemicals that are pumped down to pay zones that are beneath aquifers. Most of the opposition revolves around the issue of contaminating water supplies with fracking fluids, but other problems include radioactive pollutants, earthquakes, and health problems as well as the methane leaks from the fracking process which basically offsets the advantages of having lower carbon emissions.
A commercial methanol plant uses gas-phase synthesis technology. A methanol plant that has natural gas feed converts natural gas into synthesis gas, and the synthesis gas reacts and produces methanol
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