Fracking is a temporary process that occurs after a well has been drilled and usually takes about 3-5 days per well, making it a brief and crucial part of energy extraction. Sometimes, wells are re-fracked to extend their production, but the energy they produce can last for 20 to 40 years.
Here’s what happens during the entire well’s life cycle, from start to finish:
BEFORE DRILLING BEGINS
Before a well is drilled, geologists and engineers study the size, structure and thickness of the geological rock formations with sophisticated seismic instruments to scientifically determine how and where drilling should take place. Companies must work with engineers, wildlife biologists, geologists and environmental experts to obtain information on the depth and location of all water zones to ensure proper protections are in place. Afterward, companies must then apply for all necessary state, federal and local permits.
State regulations require oil and natural gas companies to engage and work with nearby residents and local governments to share information and listen to and address concerns prior to beginning operations.
In some cases, 4-6 wells can be fracked on one site, or pad. To keep groundwater safe, each well is encased in multiple layers of protective industrial-grade steel pipe called casing, which is surrounded by cement.
After completion, a well can produce for as long as 20 to 40 years–providing energy and long-term revenue to governments and mineral owners and sustaining local jobs. The drilling rig and related equipment are only temporary and are removed when the well is finished. Areas disturbed by this activity are reclaimed or restored. In urban areas, completed well sites are often screened or landscaped.