There are a lot of questions surrounding Class II wastewater injection. Does it cause earthquakes? Is it safe? Does Class II injection pollute our planet? How is it different from oil drilling? Is fracking the same thing as Class II wastewater injection?
And while we’ll answer several of these questions in upcoming posts, today, we’re going to answer one of the most frequently asked questions: Is Class II wastewater disposal the same thing as fracking?
Is Fracking the Same Thing as Class II Wastewater Injection?
The short answer? No.
What is Fracking?
Fracking, a nickname for the official term hydraulic fracturing, also called stimulation, is a type of technology that is used to make it easier for natural occurring substances within the Earth to flow to the wellbore and then through casing to the surface.
Hydraulic fracturing, by its name, is the process of pumping fluid under high pressure into isolated rock formations deep within the earth. By its very nature, the rate and pressure used forces the rock formation to ‘fracture,’ or break. Oil and natural gas can then flow through the cracks in the formations. Fractures connect the natural pores of the rock formation and provide a way for hydrocarbons to move. Hydraulic fracturing enhances the naturally occurring permeability (pathways).
In the oil and gas industry, fracking is used to enhance the recovery of oil and natural gas. However, fracking technology is also used in other industries as well. For example, fracking is often used to make it easier for water to flow to water wells.
Facts About Fracking
- In the oil and gas industry, hydraulic fracturing is spelled ‘fracing’. Over the years, the ‘k’ has become the more common spelling for a variety of reasons.
- The earliest concept of fracking dates back to the Civil War era.
- Fracking has been in widespread use since the late 1940s.
- 99.5% of the solution used during hydraulic fracturing is water and sand.
- Any chemicals used during fracking are typically diluted by millions of gallons of water.
Energy In Depth wrote an great article detailing the hydraulic fracturing process if you’d like to learn more.
What is Class II Wastewater Injection?
Class II wastewater injection is an EPA-regulated process used to safely dispose of the liquids produced during oil and gas production. Some examples of these include produced water, drilling fluids, and stimulation fluids (such as the water-based solution used in fracking).
Class II disposal wells use the same type of technology that is used to dispose of other types of wastewater, such as municipal wastewater, pharmaceuticals, storm water drainage, and vehicle fluids. Class II wells, however, are restricted to accepting only oil and gas fluids produced from oil and gas wells. Class II wells may not accept any other sort of industrial fluids or hazardous materials.
Facts About Class II Wastewater Injection
- Class II disposal protects our environment and drinking water by returning oil and gas waste back into the formations where it occurs naturally.
- Underground injection wells have been in widespread use since the 1930s.
- Class II wastewater disposal is highly regulated and monitored by federal or state Environmental Protection Agencies.
- As a specific condition of the EPA permit, disposal wells may NOT cause fractures within the earth. The pressure is restricted to a pressure much lower than the pressure required to fracture the rock formations. Pressure is monitored continuously and mechanically recorded. The pressure data recordings are maintained for state and federal review to ensure compliance.
In Sum: Is Fracking the Same Thing as Class II Wastewater Injection?
So what is the answer to the question, ‘Is Fracking the Same Thing as Class II Wastewater Injection’? A resounding ‘no’.
Though connected by their roles in the oil and gas industry, Class II wastewater injection and fracking are not the same. Put simply, fracking stimulates wells so that materials can flow more easily from them. Class II wastewater injection returns fluids to parts of the Earth where they naturally occur by pumping the wastewater into porous reservoirs without fracturing them.