Oil and Gas Fracking and Tight Shale Resources

  • Roger James Kuhns
  • George H. Shaw


The recovery of tight shale oil and natural gas using the technology of fracking is an example of both the application of innovative methods to energy recovery and opening the door to a series of unintended consequences. North America hosts numerous shale basins, a geologic environment that hosts low- to moderate-grade resources. Fracking opens the tight rock allowing extraction of oil and natural gas. But this method consumes large amounts of water and chemical additives, and when combined with often-impure formational waters yields an environmental, human health and drinking water risk to those in the production area. Tight shale resources have a considerably shorter production life than conventional petroleum resources, such as those controlled by OPEC. Tight shale resources see a drop in production rates of 90% within 2 years, whereas conventional wells last decades. Additionally, studies have shown re-injecting spent fluids into the deep formations triggers earthquakes, and some of those fluids may contaminate drinking water aquifers. For these reasons, natural gas is seen as more of a bridging fuel to a clean energy economy.


Fracking Oil Natural gas Tight shale/shale Conventional Carbon dioxide Greenhouse gas Methane Porosity Permeability Petroleum Additives Production Reserves Depletion Reservoir Peak 


  1. Baker Hughes/J. Kemp Energy (2017) Baker Hughes Energy and J. Kemp Energy. Accessed 3 Aug 2017
  2. Bell L (2014) Winter weather effects. Oil Gas J. March 17. Accessed 5 Aug 2016
  3. Brandt A et al (2014) Methane leakage from North American natural gas systems. Science 343(6172):733–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cathles LM (2011) Assessing the greenhouse impact of natural gas: Cornell College. /Faculty/cathles/Natural%20Gas/Cathles%20Assessing%20GH%20Impact%20Natural%20Gas.pdf. Accessed 5 Aug 2017
  5. Caulton DR et al (2014) Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development. PNAS 111(17):6237–6242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. EIA (2012) Annual energy outlook 2011: energy information administration. Accessed 17 Oct 2016
  7. EIA (2014) International energy outlook for 2013: energy information administration. Accessed 9 June 2017
  8. EIA (2015) International energy outlook for 2014: energy information administration. Accessed 9 June 2017
  9. EIA (2016) International energy outlook for 2015: energy information administration. Accessed 9 June 2017
  10. EIA (2017a) Monthly energy review: energy information administration. Accessed 12 July 2017
  11. EIA (2017b) International energy outlook for 2016: energy information administration. Accessed 9 June 2017
  12. EIA (2017c) Drilling productivity report., Accessed 13 July 2017
  13. EPA (2016a) Understanding global warming potentials: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accessed 9 June 2017
  14. EPA (2016b) Inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 9 June 2017
  15. EPA (2017) Climate change: basic information: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 9 June 2017
  16. Fischetti M (2012) Fracking would emit large quantities of greenhouse gases – “fugitive methane” released during shale gas drilling could accelerate climate change: scientific American, Jan 20, 2012. Accessed 18 Apr 2015
  17. Goddard S (2015) A decline in fracking could hurt efforts to tackle climate change: Taegan Goddard’s WonkWire, Nov 30. Accessed 6 Sept 2016
  18. Hays J, Shonkoff SBC (2016) Toward an understanding of the environmental and public health impacts of unconventional natural gas development: a categorical assessment of the Peer-Reviewed scientific literature, 2009–2015. PLoS One, April 20, 11:4. Accessed 3 Jan 2017
  19. Hughes D (2014) Drilling deeper – a reality check on U.S. Government forecasts for a lasting tight oil & shale boom: Post Carbon Institute. Accessed 11 Nov 2016
  20. Lacey S (2011) After USGS analysis, EIA cuts estimates of Marcellus Shale reserves by 80%: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), August 26. Accessed 9 Aug 2016
  21. McKenzie LM, Witter RZ, Newman LS, Adgate JL (2014) Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources. Sci Total Environ 424:9–87Google Scholar
  22. Osborn SG, Vengosh A, Warner NR, Jackson RB (2011) Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing: proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May, p 1073Google Scholar
  23. Ridlington E, Rumpler J (2013) Fracking by the numbers – key impacts of dirty drilling at the state and national level: frontier group and Environment America Research & Policy Center Report, October, 46p. Accessed 18 Dec 2015
  24. Tollefson J (2013) Methane leaks erode green credentials of natural gas. Nature 493:12. Accessed 15 Dec 2016
  25. USGS (2015) Introduction to hydraulic fracturing: U.S. geological survey, Information Page. Accessed 15 Dec 2016
  26. USGS (2017) Information Center: U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed 15 Dec 2016
  27. Vidic RD, Brantley SL, Vandenbossche JM, Yoxtheimer D, Abad JD (2013) Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality. Science 340(6134):1235009CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger James Kuhns
    • 1
  • George H. Shaw
    • 2
  1. 1.SustainAudit, LLCMysticUSA
  2. 2.Geology DepartmentUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA

Personalised recommendations