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Fracking and Your Napoleon Natural Gas Grill

What is fracking? How does it impact your life? What seem to be some of the biggest issues surrounding it today? Read on for answers and further information.

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Energy Use

Historically, energy in America has been produced from two sources: coal and petroleum. Since the Industrial Revolution, power has been an ever-increasing commodity and until recently, the side effects of utilizing "dirty" fuel sources has not been taken into consideration.

Today, we are beginning to enjoy more diverse sources of energy such as solar, wind, and bio-fuels. Alternative fuels like natural gas, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass are slowly contributing more to the energy grid in the United States. Between 2008 and 2012, energy consumption from these sources increased by an astonishing 3.8 quadrillion BTUs. Conventional coal and petroleum usage over the same period decreased by about 6 quadrillion BTUs.

While this trend is certainly impressive and moving towards a more sustainable and responsible way to power our homes and industry, not every aspect of these energy sources is without complications. One process known as fracking that is used to extract oil and natural gas does not have scientific consensus as to whether it is negative or beneficial to the environment.

What is Fracking?

buried gas line
Hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking, sounds like something out of Battlestar Galactica. However cool sounding it may be, the process is less futuristic but rather complex. In essence, hydraulic fracturing is the process by which a pressurized liquid is forced underground into rock beds to break up rocks and allow natural gas to escape through the newly made cracks. Since the inception of modern fracturing in the late 1940's, this natural gas extraction technique has become so popular that over half of the worlds new gas and oil wells are made this way.

Extensive research is conducted to locate veins of raw material. Currently, shale as well as massive hydraulic fracturing is used to reach deep deposits where traditional methods were unsuccessful. This newer technique lets prospectors access deep dikes that could not be reached otherwise. Shale is a highly porus and easily permeated material that can be relatively easily bypassed to extract the large amounts of trapped natural gas from deposits that are many square miles wide.


While powering your Napoleon natural gas grill or natural gas water heater can produce tasty and efficient results (respectively), fracking is a complicatedmethod for harvesting energy. Most who are involved in the conversation are primarily concerned with how it impacts the environment.

Water and Flowback:
Water usage per each well measures in the millions of gallons. Depending on location, this may heavily strain local water sources and contaminate aquifers with toxic or radioactive byproducts.

Air quality can be impacted due to the exhaust from drilling equipment and transportation or the fact that methane trapped with the natural gas can escape into the atmosphere.

Seismic activity is carefully monitored as fracturing progresses. Some scientific studies show that this process can contribute to increased frequency and severity in earthquakes. Moreover, these quakes are not local, they can be thousands of miles away from the source well.

Some chemicals used are carcinogenic causing respiratory system, immune system and cardiovascular complications if inhaled or ingested. These can persist in the environment for many years without degrading and pose a risk to wildlife as well.

The issue of fracking is not clear cut and has many ramifications on current and future elements. There are less risky methods but the crux of the issue is whether or not the costs outweigh the benefits.