Fracking: at peak oil, increased extraction

Fracking: at peak oil, increased extraction

By Jorge Tadeo Vargas

… By way of introduction…

It is a fact that we are experiencing the peak of oil, that is, the exploitation curve begins its decline and it is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to access new fields, as well as continue to extract from existing ones.

If we start from the discovery of the uses for this non-renewable “resource”; Dependence on it has turned us into a civilization with few aptitude for survival towards a medium-term future where fossil fuels (oil and gas) are at their end, this makes a critical situation in itself dramatic: without forgetting of course This is the impact that this model based on the extraction of natural common goods and dependence on fossil fuels have produced on the planet, with global warming and anthropogenic climate change being the greatest danger today.

For the current system and the linear production model that prevails today, a paradigm shift is practically impossible, not only energy, but in the entire system and the use of what we call natural resources, that is why before the zenith of oil, new ways and / or technologies are being sought to access secondary resources such as gas. Some of these technologies are too expensive, others with a great socio-environmental impact and the excessive use of other natural common goods necessary for the ecosystem processes of nature.

The enemy: the oil industry

If we recall a little about the impacts of the oil industry directly, mainly on the oceans and their biodiversity, we can mention some important catastrophes in the last thirty years. The first that comes to mind is the one that occurred in the 1980s off the coast of Alaska when the Exxon Valdez carrier ship ran aground, spilling hundreds of tons of oil on the northern shores of the Pacific Ocean, in the same way on the shores of the Mediterranean at the beginning of the nineties of the last century, a similar spill occurred. At the beginning of this century in the Galapagos Islands, an accident with a large oil spill put the biodiversity of these historic islands in check or those spilled on the coasts of Galicia, Spain in 2002 until 2010 and the largest accident that occurred to date. date when the deep drilling platform of the oil company British Petroleum exploded causing an unprecedented environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, with damage from which we will not be able to recover for a few more generations.

These widely documented, studied and highly visualized accidents are only part of the impacts that the oil industry is leaving in its wake both on the ecosystems and on the human communities that live off these ecosystems, here the impact is not only resisted by the communities fisheries and / or coastal areas, but also some agricultural communities. Similarly, refineries built far from the coast or from the extraction of hydrocarbons, cause a serious socio-environmental impact on nearby communities.

Trying to keep the dying man alive

One of the main “surpluses” for the oil industry has been the gas that is produced during oil extraction. However, in recent years this has been gaining an importance that equates it with other energy sources, giving the fight to the hegemonic oil.

Gas extraction is expensive and often requires state-of-the-art technology for it to be profitable in economic terms, however the industry has been perfecting a technique that allows it to lower costs and maximize profits, although increasing the socio-economic impacts. environmental.

This technique known as fracking by its name in English and which translates as hydraulic fracturing, consists of injecting water with other chemical compounds under pressure, which forces, by Archimedes' principle, to remove the gas to the outside. This process, which for some years has been the most used by the United States for gas extraction, is becoming the most attractive model to implement in other countries, which see hydraulic fracturing as a more affordable solution to continue perpetuating the extractive model current, socializing socio-environmental costs. In the last ten years, the use of fracking has increased with more than 2.5 million hydraulic fractures with very poor or no regulation in most countries and ignoring the studies that have been made of the impacts of this practice on the nature and human beings in the gas extraction process.

Although fracking is a technique or process to extract gas and not oil, it is the main enemy when it comes to the dependence of humans on fossil fuels. The relationship of these two fuels is very close and both one and the other promote dependency and limit the search for alternatives both in the energy matrix and in the model, giving continuity to the use of non-renewable energy, which are the ones that have civilization in check. current.

The impacts of fracking

First of all, fracking is an extractive process and therefore has certain socio-environmental impacts, mainly in relation to the expropriation of territories, causing environmental refugees, both human and other species, generating cultural and ecosystem impacts. However, the process itself generates other direct impacts. In the United States, a country with more time carrying out this process, some studies have shown that the water that is used, mixed with other chemical compounds such as benzene, lead and twenty-four other chemicals, all proven carcinogens are discharged to the aquifers, thus polluting the basins, putting at risk the use of these waters in the agricultural industry and for wildlife in general. Needless to say, about water for human consumption. Other studies prove the presence in high concentrations of methane in drinking water pipes, thus generating not only a low and risky quality of said water, but also risks of explosion and fires due to this highly flammable gas. It is worth mentioning that methane is a gas called Greenhouse Gases with an aggressiveness twenty times greater than carbon dioxide. Accidents in the extraction zones are not exempt from occurring and the security measures are not always adequate, being a great risk for the communities near the extraction plants.

… And in Mexico?…

Until very recently, fracking was a process of the countries of the Global North, few or no countries of the Global South were participating in this form of extraction, but with the current economic crisis and the need to continue with the dependence on fossil fuels, countries like Mexico are beginning to see in this process an alternative to make the most of hydrocarbons. PEMEX reports indicate that the parastatal plans to operate 6,500 gas wells through hydraulic fracturing in the next fifty years, this without a serious study of the socio-environmental impacts and without inserting any of this within the regulatory framework of the national water law, a common natural asset already threatened in many ways in the country and now a new actor enters the scene of the privatization and contamination of water in the country.

In conclusion

Despite the evidence on the socio-environmental impacts widely documented worldwide, fracking seems to be the trend to be followed by the oil and energy industry, every day new projects or new resistance against this practice are heard. It is necessary to create the tools and alliances necessary to stop these types of projects that impact in many ways, mainly the natural good of water, thereby generating greater impacts.

Based on what is known and with the precautionary principle as the basis to follow, looking for non-extractive or linear alternatives are basic to approach the solution, of course community participation, the change of the energy matrix as a basis for the change of the model of production, are necessary tools to not only get out of this current civilizational crisis, but also to break with a paradigmatic model in full decline.

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