Fracking Hazard Alert

Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 05:06 PM gHale

There is now a hazard alert aimed at protecting workers at hydraulic fracturing operations from silica exposure, federal officials said.

Hydraulic fracturing involves blasting rock with water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas. Crystalline silica is part of sand.

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Workers who regularly breathe it are at greater risk of developing silicosis, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. They said silica also has links to lung cancer and tuberculosis. The hazard alert they issued describes how engineering controls, work practices, protective equipment, worker training and product substitution can protect employees.

OSHA released statements from officials with the Association of Energy Service Companies and the AFL-CIO saying they support efforts to raise awareness of the hazard.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth.

Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration. In fact, 3D imaging helps scientists determine the precise locations for drilling.

Horizontal drilling (along with traditional vertical drilling) allows for the injection of highly pressurized fracking fluids into the shale area.

This creates new channels within the rock from which driller can extract natural gas at higher than traditional rates. This drilling process can take up to a month, while the drilling teams delve more than a mile into the Earth’s surface. After which, the well is cased with cement to ensure groundwater protection, and the shale is hydraulically fractured with water and other fracking fluids.

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