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Not Under My Backyard, Thank You

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Science  25 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5986, pp. 1625
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5986.1625

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Summary

Now that drillers have figured out how to extract gas trapped in shale rock (see main text), a new and perhaps more hazardous style of drilling is coming to parts of the country unfamiliar with the ways of the oil and gas industry. To those outside the industry, the scariest part of the new drilling might be the way drillers unleash the gas. They drill straight down, turn the drill to go horizontally, and then pump in chemically treated water to pressurize a horizontal section of the well until surrounding rock fractures and begins to give up its gas. Many local residents and environmentalists have worried that this "fracing" (pronounced and sometimes written "fracking") might propagate fractures upward into overlying aquifers so that escaping gas, chemicals, and brine will contaminate groundwater.