Steve Fitzpatrick GPC Clarkston Science Department
fairfield.edu / We utilize fossil fuels everyday; in fact it is almost impossible to avoid them. Fossil fuels are as important to our daily existence as they are to the functioning of our civilization itself. Hydraulic fracturing is a new technique that is used to obtain these energy resources. Fossil fuels Hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuels
Over vast amounts of geological time these remains have been transformed into deposits containing high amounts of compounds that contain only hydrogen and carbon: hydrocarbons. The history of fossil fuels Fossil fuels defined Fossil fuels are combustible energy resources that are derived from the remains of certain organisms.
There are an enormous amount of hydrocarbons on and in the Earth: over 100,000 are known. Many of these occur in the chemical solution known as crude oil. The history of fossil fuels Hydrocarbons Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon. It occurs naturally on Earth as a gas, or in the gas phase.
Fossil fuel deposits are found in sedimentary rock layers. The study of these layers and their development over time is called stratigraphy. In fossil fuel exploration and development it is important to understand stratigraphy with regards to Earth’s geological history. The history of fossil fuels Fossil fuel deposits
The two basic types of fossil fuels, oil/gas and coal, require very specific underground temperature and pressure conditions to form as well as lots of time. The process of forming sedimentary rocks and deposits is called diagenesis. The history of fossil fuels Diagenesis
Coal is a solid fuel source that is composed of the ancient tissues of woody plant matter that have been transformed into a hydrocarbon-bearing rock through diagenesis. The history of fossil fuels Coal
The origin of petroleum and natural gas is in the tissues of ancient microorganisms.. Their remains do not decay completely and these develop into an assortment of complex hydrocarbon polymers. Polymers are large chain-like molecules. Petroleum and natural gas The history of fossil fuels
“The oil window” The age of a given oil deposit as well as the temperature within the oil window is critical to the exploration for oil. Anything outside of the shaded area in the graph means that usable petroleum is not present: it either hasn’t had enough time to develop or it is volatilized, or “burned away” by the heat. The science behind fossil fuels
Oil and gas originate as kerogen, a thick mixture of organic chemical compounds. It is insoluble to other oils, it doesn’t mix well with them. Some coal contains a type of kerogen. When heated to the right temperature, under proper pressure at depth, kerogen will release petroleum and natural gas. The rocks, such as shale, in which this happens become known as source rock. Kerogen The science behind fossil fuels
What is the difference between “oil” and “natural gas”? The science behind fossil fuels Liquids and gases are both considered to be fluids. Fluids are energetic, liquid or gas phase substances. They take the shape of whatever container they are in. Solids, like coal, do not behave this Liquids are “heavier” or denser thus they are more affected by gravity than gases. Oil is a liquid and natural gas is literally a gas.
What is the difference between “oil” and “natural gas”? The science behind fossil fuels Oil, liquid crude oil, is a solution of many different hydrocarbons. It is quite complex. Natural gas is much simpler, it is mostly composed of methane, the simplest hydrocarbon. There is one thing that all of the natural hydrocarbons have in common: they represent large amounts of potential energy.
Chemical potential energy The science behind fossil fuels Hydrocarbons in general contain more stored energy than many other types of compounds. This energy, held within molecular bonds, is known as chemical potential energy. This potential energy is held in the bonds between carbon and hydrogen. In combustion oxygen bonds to hydrogen and carbon. The formation of these bonds releases energy or heat. https://www.cdli.ca/
Oil and natural gas as fluids The fact that oil and gas are fluids is important. When fluids are introduced to a system they go into equilibrium. This is both dependent on the energy of the fluid and the pressure on the system itself. The science behind fossil fuels For instance when you let air out of a balloon it disperses into the atmosphere until the initial pressure of the gas is the same as atmospheric pressure. Liquids evaporate for much the same reason.
Traps The science behind fossil fuels Oil and natural gas “stay put” underground because they are held there within geological formations known as traps. Impermeable cap rock prevents highly mobile hydrocarbons from migrating upwards.
The science behind fossil fuels Both oil and natural gas are less dense than water so they will always migrate upwards beyond water. When cap rocks are disturbed either naturally such as in earthquakes, or due to drilling, oil and gas migrate upward through the openings. Traps
In addition to having low relative densities, oil and natural gas are often under pressure deep underground. This causes them to rapidly mobilize to zones of lower pressure when a trap has been breached. If the lowest pressure happens to be the Earth’s surface then these fluids will migrate there. The classic image of the “oil gusher” originates in this fact. In the past oil gushers were common. The science behind fossil fuels Under pressure
History of the use of fossil fuels Oil in prehistory Human beings used bitumen or asphalt (particularly thick oil deposits) as adhesives since prehistoric times. There is evidence of it’s use by prehistoric humans. They may have used bitumen to attach the heads to spears. Where oil is plentiful, such as in the Middle East, it emerges from the ground in seeps. In the past oil has been readily available to people in this manner.
Oil at the dawn of civilization History of the use of fossil fuels The use of petroleum is first seen in the archeological record on the banks of the Euphrates River 6000 years ago. Asphalt was quarried there for use as mortar and decoration. Bitumen was used around 4000 B.C. in Mesopotamia as caulk for building. It was also used in Ancient Egypt for mortaring the pyramids.
Historic use History of the use of fossil fuels Despite some early use oil has not been widely utilized throughout most of history. Until recently oil has historically been used as either a sealant, a building material, “paint” or… as a medicine. Native Americans used fossil fuels from seeps as medicine for hundreds of years before it was used in the 19 th Century as a “tonic”.
Historic use History of the use of fossil fuels In 1849 a Canadian geologist named Abraham Gesner distilled crude oil to create a new lamp oil called kerosene. Ultimately kerosene replaced whale oil and Gesner would become known as the "Father of the Petroleum Industry“ although he made he neither achieved wealth or fame in his lifetime. The fact that petroleum products are readily combustible was key to the shape of things to come.
The first oil well History of the use of fossil fuels A few years later in 1859 The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company contracted Edwin L. Drake to drill a well near Titusville, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the well was to extract crude oil for lighting fuel. This was the world’s first oil well; it was the beginning of the oil industry.
The rapid rise of oil use History of the use of fossil fuels The oil industry truly began with the inception of John D.. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Ohio in In 1901 the first Texas “oil gusher” Spindletop came into production. Two years later Henry Ford began mass-producing an automobile named the Model T. The Model T ran on a little-used byproduct of petroleum, gasoline. The rapidly increasing numbers of automobiles drove up oil production exponentially.
Energy content The reason for the use of gasoline in automobiles was due to it’s relative efficiency. Gasoline like many other petroleum products yields a relatively high amount of energy per unit mass, much greater than other resources. The fossil fuel industry For instance the petroleum product that we all probably used today, gasoline, yields about 44 kJ/g (kilojoule/gram) of energy. One kilojoule is enough to lift 225 pounds 3.3 feet off the ground. https://www.wou.edu
Oil production The fossil fuel industry The rapid rise of petroleum use in motor vehicles throughout the 20 th Century meant that the fossil fuel, or petroleum, industry eventually became one of the forces that shaped our modern world. For instance each day in 2012, 89,292.5 barrels of crude oil was produced. Given the volume of a standard oil drum (55 gallons) that is close to 2 billion gallons per year!
Exploration, extraction, refinement an d use The fossil fuel industry One hundred years ago locating oil and gas was something of a gamble. Today through geophysical means, mostly seismic, is used to locate oil reserves. Geophysics utilizes energy signals to understand Earth’s interior. Once this crude oil is extracted (pumped from wells) is has to be refined. Once crude oil is refined at least half of it usually goes to gasoline production. The rest is potentially utilized to help make over 6000 other products!
Peak oil The fossil fuel industry By definition oil and gas are mined. Mining implies that the resource is not put back: it is non-renewable. “Peak Oil” or Hubbert Peak Theory was based on the work of American geophysicist M. King Hubbert predicted that the production of any given oil field was finite and the volume of production would follow a bell-shaped curve over time with a characteristic peak followed by a steady decline.
Unconventional oil and gas resources Recent problems and solutions Although oil and gas are nonrenewable resources, resources that are finite in volume and extent, there has been a resurgence in the discovery and productions of petroleum resources. This is because unconventional petroleum sources are now being utilized such as tar sands (oil saturated ancient sands) and oil shale. Oil shale is a sedimentary rock that contain kerogen.
Recent problems and solutions Geological and geophysical investigations have revealed petroleum sources in rocks that are much less permeable than traditional oil and gas bearing rock. These are sedimentary rocks with tighter pore structures than many of the currently depleted reservoirs. Unconventional oil and gas resources
What is “fracking”? Hydraulic fracturing “Fracking” is a colloquial term for hydraulic fracturing, which is simply the fracturing of rock using high pressure fluids. There is a wide range of Earth materials of interest that can be extracted using hydraulic fracturing: anything even water or uranium ore particles. Recently though, the primary material use of hydraulic fracturing has been to obtain oil from oil shale formations.
Early use of hydraulic fracturing Hydraulic fracturing Hydraulic fracturing was first experimentally attempted in 1947 in Kansas gallons of a gasoline and sand mixture was used. Although the experiment was not very successful, two years later Haliburton, an oilfield service company, performed the first two commercial operations in Texas and Oklahoma. The technique proved to be successful in a short amount of time.
The process Hydraulic fracturing Specialized machinery pumps fluids directly into wellbores in rock formations. These fluids are mostly water plus a chemical “lubricant”. Then a proppant, sand or aluminum oxide particles, is placed in the new fractures to hold them open. This increased porosity allows drilling operations to extract oil from previously unrecoverable sources.
Current production Hydraulic fracturing Hydraulic fracturing sites are often large-scale operations. They can employ hundreds of specialists. The work is usually done 24 hours a day, seven days a week; 365 days a year.
Current production Hydraulic fracturing There are dozens of shale plays in the United States alone. A play is a series of productive oil fields that share a distinct geology.
Economic effects Hydraulic fracturing Oil output has increased by 30% since Gas production has increased by 1/3 since This overall increase has seen the development of economies on local, national and international levels. The use of hydraulic fracturing has ensured a more secure supply of oil for energy. It has also provided for the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Controversy Hydraulic fracturing Controversy has surrounded the use of fracking in the oil industry ever since large- scale development began. Much of this has to do with possible environmental and health impacts Oddly enough there may be two environmental benefits at least from the use of natural gas obtained by fracking: cleaner air and reduced Greenhouse emissions (versus burning coal).
Known impacts Hydraulic fracturing There are quite a few proven and potential impacts on health and the environment due to hydraulic fracturing… Although ~99% of most fracturing fluids is comprised of sand water, the other ~1% is comprised of chemicals with high toxicity levels. Although efforts are taken to mitigate risks, the high mobility of certain fluids coupled with uncertainty of fracture formation poses risks.
Known impacts Hydraulic fracturing There have been reports of methane contamination in groundwater. Highly mobile and volatile methane is hard to contain in many cases. Even so methane has been known to contaminate wells without the presence of fracturing operations. Since fracturing utilizes rapid kinetic movement and pressure changes toxic minerals from below aquifers can be disturbed and released into the water.
Possible impacts Hydraulic fracturing Fracking can also potentially effect surface water such as reservoirs and rivers. Groundwater and surface waters are not separate but continuous systems. In addition to the release of toxins into ground or surface water, hydraulic fracturing could potentially activate fractures and faults that exist within an adjacent volume of rock to the fracturing operation.
Current legislation in the United States Hydraulic fracturing On the Federal level the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act cover hydraulic fracturing in a non-specific manner. Since hydraulic fracturing is a practice that is in it’s inception there are currently few laws covering it. States have differing laws and environmental regulations covering such industries. Most states have an oil and gas commission that deal with issues related to oil and gas development.
Future projections Hydraulic fracturing As hydraulic fracturing, and all that it entails such as, continues to increase it would make sense for further study of the environmental and health impacts to continue. Hydraulic fracturing has proven to be of benefit to the economy and to fossil fuel supplies. Regardless the risk for impacts on the environment and human life cannot be ignored. As we continue to gain data, legislation will doubtless be required to regulate the possibility of the detrimental effects that hydraulic fracturing can have.
Citations Acknowledgements Smil, V. (2008) Oil. Oneworld Publications, Oxford Crawford, M. (2013) Fracturing Rocks to Unlock New Oil. Mechanical Engineering 12,135:24-29 Weinstein, M. (2007) Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States and the European Union: Rethinking Regulation to Ensure the Protection of Water Resources. Wisconsin International Law Journal 30,4: Courtney, A. (1996) Energy from Fossil Fuels. https://www.wou.edu/las/physci/GS361/Energy_From_Fossil_Fuels. htm