Cracked: 15 Things to Know About Gas, Money and Power

By Eric Roston and Tom Randall - 2014-02-21T13:10:53Z

Photograph by Erich Schlegel/Corbis

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There's a Water Problem

Frackers blast chemical-rich water into the ground to crack open tiny fissures from which gas can be collected. The key ingredient is water. Lots of water. 

That’s a problem, because the fracking boom happens to coincide with some of the worst droughts in modern U.S. history. Half of 40,000 wells fracked in the U.S. since 2011 were in areas with high water stress, according to a recent Ceres analysis. Then there’s the additional problem of groundwater contamination from the fracking process and from breaches of wastewater deposits. The Association of German Breweries says fracking even poses a threat to the taste of pilsner. 

Companies like Gasfrac Energy Services are experimenting with techniques to frack without water, using liquefied petroleum gas gel, propane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.