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Fracking: Through The Lens

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 2:19pm
BRENNAN LINSLEY, Associated Press

MEAD, Colo. (AP) — Workers bustle at an oil and gas drilling site near Mead, Colo., a town of about 3,800 people north of Denver.

The hydraulic fracturing operation, also known as "fracking," and others like it pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, mixed with fine sand and chemicals, deep underground to split the rock, and make the oil — and dollars — flow.

But the drilling has come much too fast — and too close — for several communities, where fracking bans have been enacted out of concern about its possible impact on groundwater. The state government and the energy industry are challenging those prohibitions.

In this photo essay, AP Photographer Brennan Linsley looks inside a walled-off fracking facility, one of many sites reversing decades of declining oil production in the state.

A machine mixes sand and water before it is pumped underground during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. well pad near Mead, Colo.

A worker adjusts pipes during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. well pad. The first experimental use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, and more than 1 million U.S. oil and gas wells have been fracked since, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

A worker oils a pump during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. well pad. The National Petroleum Council estimates that up to 80 percent of natural gas wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing.

A worker walks among huge pumps and other equipment at the site of a hydraulic fracturing operation. The first experimental use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, and more than 1 million U.S. oil and gas wells have been fracked since, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Workers talk during a hydraulic fracturing operation. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can greatly increase the productivity of an oil or gas well by splitting open rock with water and/or sand pumped underground at high pressure. 

  A worker watches over a hydraulic fracturing operation. In the background is a tall canvas wall around the perimeter of the extraction site, which mitigates noise, light and dust coming from the operation during the drilling and completion phase, which generally takes a few weeks.

Mike Hamilton, ground and crew supervisor, walks past the well heads during operation. It takes a few weeks for the half dozen wells to be fracked.

Perforating tools, used to create fractures in the rock, are lowered into one of six wells during a roughly two-week operation.

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