Fracking Words

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At 444 pages, the North Carolina Oil and Gas Study is an extensive document. During the month of April, Laura White will be tackling this entire document, conducting interviews with experts and breaking it down section by section so you can be as informed as possible.

The Record’s goal here is not to tell you what to think about fracking, but to arm you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Check in a few times a week, and watch for #NCFrackFocus on Twitter for daily updates as we work our way through what you need to know. Have a specific question you want us to address? Email lwhite@raleighpublicrecord.org or Tweet @lewhite.

As the month progresses, I’m going to be coming across a lot of industry-specific terms and abbreviations. Any time a strange word pops up, simply click on it and it will bring you here, where I’ll be keeping a running list of them. Since I’ve got to look them up anyway, I might as well save you the time.

Hydraulic fracturing = also known as fracking, hydro fracking or fracing, this is the process of extracting natural gas from fractures in a rock layer by injecting pressurized fracking fluid (made up of sand, more than a million gallons of water and chemicals) into the rock layer in order to expand the fractures and let the natural gas flow out. The process requires an initial vertical drilling that eventually turns horizontal in order to reach more fissures within the rock layer.

Basin = geologic term referring to a low area in the earth’s crust. It is formed by the warping of the earth’s crust from mountain building forces, in which sediments have accumulated.

Cap Rock = an impermeable, nonporous layer of rock, that rests atop reservoir rock. This rock traps hydrocarbons and prevents them from migrating to the surface.

CFG = cubic foot gas, it is a standard of measurement for gas usually defined as a cubit foot of volume at 14.7 psi.

Christmas tree = a wellhead, which is the component placed at the surface of an oil or gas well, containing several pressure shut-off valves

Contiguous = sharing a common border, touching

Deep River Basin = the 150-mile Triassic basin that runs from Granville County southwestward, cutting through Durham, Orange, Wake, Chatham, Lee, Moore, Montgomery, Richmond, Anson and Union counties. The Sanford sub-basin is located within this larger basin, in Lee County, and was used as the main point of reference throughout the DENR study.

Hydrocarbons = one of earth’s most important energy resources, they are used mostly as a combustible fuel source and are naturally occurring organic compounds made of hydrogen and carbon.

Kerogen = a naturally occurring solid, it is a mixture of organic chemical compounds found in sedimentary rock. Heating it to the proper level produces hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon gas. Kerogen levels are used to determine whether the sedimentary rocks they reside in are sources for fossil fuel. Kerogen levels also help determine what kind of fuel may be present.

Methane = the simplest form of a hydrocarbon, CH4. While it is not toxic, it is highly flammable, is a greenhouse gas, and is an asphyxiant, meaning it is able to displace oxygen in an enclosed space.

PSI = pounds per square inch, meaning one pound-force is applied to one square inch. PSI is a unit of pressure based on a 16 oz. pound, and is used to measure the gas in wells. As a frame of reference, air pressure at sea level is 14.7 psi. According to the American Gas Association’s website, the pressure in each section of pipeline for a well is 200 to 1,500 psi.

Shale = sedimentary rock composed of clay-sized particles that are mainly quartz, it formed from mud that settled out of a water column into a lake or mud flat, then accumulated in a geologic basin.

Source Rock = organic rich material that has been matured by heat and pressure to release hydrocarbons

Reservoir Rock = a porous rock layer into which oil and gas migrate

Triassic basin = a basin formed 235 to 200 million years ago when Africa and North America were beginning to split apart to form the Atlantic Ocean. This type of basin is called a rift valley. These basins are also sometimes referred to as Mesazoic basins , as the Mesazoic Era was made up of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods.

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