Jennifer McIntosh
Jennifer McIntosh

A major discussion in today’s news is about hydraulic fracturing, a technique being used to extract petroleum and gas from rock formations that formerly were inaccessible to standard drilling methods.

Although “fracking” has been shown to be very successful and financially rewarding to people and companies involved in the process, it is also very controversial because of the potential danger to humans and animals on the surface and to the rock formations through which drilling takes place, sometimes resulting in earthquakes.

Jennifer McIntosh, an associate professor in the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Arizona, will discuss the controversial process in a lecture at the Arizona Senior Academy Wednesday (June 4) beginning at 3:30 p.m.

McIntosh received a B.A. at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. and a Ph.D. in Geology at the University of Michigan. Her primary focus is on elemental and isotopic chemistry of surface waters, ground waters, saline fluids, and natural gas to better understand their sources and related biogeochemical processes. Her research involves extensive field sampling, laboratory analyses, and geochemical and hydrologic modeling.

She became interested in fracking because it is a commercial application that is very much related to her other research interests. Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of rock by a pressurized liquid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing is a technique in which water is mixed with sand and chemicals, and the mixture is injected at high pressure into a wellbore to create small fractures (typically less than 1 millimeter) in the surrounding rock, along which fluids such as gas, petroleum, and water may migrate to the surface via the wellbore when the pressure is released.

Submitted by Charles Prewitt, Academy Village Volunteer

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An Academic Examines the Risks of ‘Fracking’: June 2014