Despite the belief that hydraulic fracturing is a new process, it has actually been safely used for about 60 years in Canada.
In Western Canada, over 175,000 wells have been stimulated using hydraulic fracturing. This process has been more recently combined with horizontal drilling to access larger sections of the reservoir, making them commercially viable to produce. Where oil and natural gas was once considered trapped and inaccessible in hard, tight rock formations, this well completion technique allows producers to bring that valuable product to market.
It is important to understand where hydraulic fracturing fits within the entire drilling, well construction/completion and production cycle of oil and natural gas activities. Hydraulic fracturing is not a method for drilling or constructing a well.
Very simply, hydraulic fracturing involves injecting fluid under controlled pressure intermittently over a short period (three to five days) to create cracks—fractures—in a targeted rock formation thousands of feet below the surface, which will then permit the oil or natural gas to flow to the wellbore.
Many studies – and decades of history – indicate that oil and natural gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing, are safe when wells are properly designed, constructed and operated. The risk associated with this technique is low and can be managed effectively when conducted properly and in accordance with existing regulations. ConocoPhillips has policies and procedures in place to ensure the safety of the public, our employees and contractors and the integrity of our well operations. We are confident in our ability to develop oil and natural gas resources responsibly when using this proven practice.
For more on the process, and our position, please see Power in Cooperation.