Fracking study: Potential impacts should be considered

7:19 PM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
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Fracking well in PA - photo from Sarah Sell

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WZZM) -- A new study from the University of Michigan says fracking for natural gas is not likely to become widespread in Michigan anytime soon, but potential impacts should be considered.

The study is said to be the most comprehensive research done to date on the controversial issue. Opponents say it's detrimental to the environment, while supporters say it's safe.

Small scale fracking has been going in Michigan for many years, but it wasn't until recently that a much larger type of horizontal fracturing was introduced. It's become prevalent in states like Texas and Pennsylvania but it hasn't taken off yet in Michigan, likely because of low gas prices and the high cost of the fracking process. 

Researchers are looking at seven critical topics ranging from economics to the environment. The project's director, John Callewaert, says so far there is little development, giving Michigan more time to prepare. "There are a lot of regulations in place already to guide this activity, but we're going to see a different scale of activity. Is it going to be sufficient in terms of water withdrawals that take place? Or will we be able to handle the truck traffic that we might see in some communities?"

Horizontal fracturing involves drilling thousands of feet into the ground, vertically and horizontally. A fracking fluid made up of sand, water, and chemicals is pumped down, fracturing the shale and releasing the natural gas. In Michigan, 40 permits have been issued, but only 19 have been completed.

"It's really hard to know how much more we're going to see because it's limited so far, but we know there's interest based on leases and auctions the state has held in the past couple of years,"  said Callewaert.

The next phase of the U of M study will look at policy options for the future. It should be complete by the middle of 2014.

You can access the full study at: http://graham.umich.edu/knowledge/ia/hydraulic-fracturing/technical-reports

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