Water: essential to life, multi-useful, and… flammable?
Fire water. What an oxymoron. Residents of areas rich in natural gas have noticed that their tap water is able to catch on fire. How does one find this out, you may ask? Well, that’s all part of the story.
The Root of the Story
The natural gas found in some homes’ tap water can be traced back to hydraulic fracturing, aka. fracking. Fracking is the process of drilling and shooting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to break shale rock into pieces to release natural gas inside. Currently, there are over 500,000 wells in the US that are using this technique. During the process, methane gas and toxic chemicals find their way from the system and into nearby groundwater. Drinking water wells near fracturing sites have been found to have a methane concentration 17 times higher than other normal wells.
But, according to fracking enthusiasts, the process is safe and clean, and is done right–for the most part. In a 2011 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that only a handful of over 20,000 wells drilled in the previous decade had led to groundwater contamination. Their data showed that most of the incidents derived from holes and breaks in existing sites.
On the opposite side of the fracking controversy lies a recent publishing from Duke University’s Dr. Robert Jackson. He studied water samples from 141 private drinking-water wells within a community to around 5,000 drilling sites atop the Marcellus shale (a geological area rich in natural gases extending from northeastern Pennsylvania to southeastern New York). In his study, Dr. Jackson found that every 4 out of 5 wells contained methane–the colorless, combustible main component of natural gas.
The United States has recently hit a natural gas jackpot, and it’s mainly due to fracking. The process has become more economically efficient, resulting in America now pumping 2 million cubic meters of natural gas a day (this is a 30% increase since 2005). On an environmental standpoint, fracking is disastrous. But, economically speaking, it has made trillions of dollars’ worth of previously unreachable oil and natural gas within human reach.
There are many ups and downs of hydraulic fracturing, and it has become a hot research topic for universities and governmental bases.
What about the residents who are using the contaminated water on a daily basis? Well, let’s just say they found ways to have fun with it.
A video by a man from North Dakota showed him holding a lighter towards a stream of tap water, which resulted in large flames rising up into the faucet. He admitted “the first time [he] did it, it was a huge fireball [that] took up the entire sink.”
Jacob Haughney’s video has caught global attention with more than 400,000 views on YouTube. It also prompted for speculation that the North Dakota fracking boom is responsible for the apparently flammable tap water. North Dakota is the second largest oil-producing state in America, with an estimated 911,000+ barrels of shale gas on a daily bases.