Case study

Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, Montana

This case study is part of a collection of pages developed by students in the 2012 introductory-level Geology and Human Health course in the Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University.

Hydrofracking is a controversial oil and gas extraction technique developed in the late 1940s to gain access to fossil energy deposits previously inaccessible to drilling operations. The process, “hydraulic fracturing”, literally involves the smashing of rock with millions of gallons of water–along with sand and a undisclosed assortment of chemicals in order to bring gas to the surface.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act–this regulatory exclusion is often referred to as the Halliburton loophole.

Montana fracking is still in the early stages of development compared to other states and has been described by a Texas oil company as “the best kep secret in oil and gas”.

Risks and Concerns of Fracking

  • Contamination of groundwater
  • Methane pollution and its impact on climate change
  • Air pollution impacts
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Blowouts due to gas explosion
  • Waste disposal
  • Large volume water use in water-deficient regions
  • Fracking-induced earthquakes
  • Workplace safety
  • Infrastructure degradation

To find out more about the study – read here

This case study is part of a collection of pages developed by students in the 2012 introductory-level Geology and Human Health course in the Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University.

Hydrofracking is a controversial oil and gas extraction technique developed in the late 1940s to gain access to fossil energy deposits previously inaccessible to drilling operations. The process, “hydraulic fracturing”, literally involves the smashing of rock with millions of gallons of water–along with sand and a undisclosed assortment of chemicals in order to bring gas to the surface.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act–this regulatory exclusion is often referred to as the Halliburton loophole.

Montana fracking is still in the early stages of development compared to other states and has been described by a Texas oil company as “the best kep secret in oil and gas”.

Risks and Concerns of Fracking

  • Contamination of groundwater
  • Methane pollution and its impact on climate change
  • Air pollution impacts
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Blowouts due to gas explosion
  • Waste disposal
  • Large volume water use in water-deficient regions
  • Fracking-induced earthquakes
  • Workplace safety
  • Infrastructure degradation

To find out more about the study – read here