Identification of risk, the potential for occurrence of an event and impact of that event, is the first step in improving a process by ranking risk elements and controlling potential harm from occurrence of a detrimental event. Hydraulic Fracturing has become a hot environmental discussion topic and a target of media articles and University studies during development of gas shales near populated areas. The furor over fracturing and frac waste disposal was largely driven by lack of chemical disclosure and the pre-2008 laws of some states.
The spectacular increase in North American natural gas reserves created by shale gas development makes shale gas a disruptive technology, threatening profitability and continued development of other energy sources. Introduction of such a disruptive force as shale gas will invariably draw resistance, both monetary and political, to attack the disruptive source, or its enabler; hydraulic fracturing.
Some "anti-frack" charges in media articles and university studies are based in fact and require a state-by-state focused improvement of well design specific for geology of the area and oversight of overall well development. Other articles have demonstrated either a severe misunderstanding or an intentional misstatement of well development processes, apparently to attack the disruptive source.
Transparency requires cooperation from all sides in the debate. To enable more transparency on the oil and gas side, both to assist in the understanding of oil and gas activities and to set a foundation for rational discussion of fracturing risks, a detailed explanation of well development activities is offered in this paper, from well construction to production, written at a level of general public understanding, along with an initial estimation of frac risk and alternatives to reduce the risk, documented by literature and case histories. This discussion is a starting point for the well development descriptions and risk evaluation discussions, not an ending point.