What is "Fracking"?

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COALGATE, OK -- It is a term that most people in oil and gas country, especially in Oklahoma and Texas have likely heard, "fracking", and it is one that is steeped in plenty of controversy.

Hydraulic Fracturing is a technique used to release natural gas from rocks that are beneath the earth's surface. A nationwide boom in "fracking" has unleashed giant energy reserves, but many environmentalists argue "fracking" leads to water contamination some even blame fracking for earthquakes, but for all the talk and opinions about fracking how many people actually understand how it works? Kristen Shanahan sat down with a local expert Friday who breaks down the process.

Scott Wright has a small lab in Coalgate, Oklahoma where he studies the composition of rocks. He worked as a mudlogger, guiding drillers through different layers of the earth to get to natural gas. Wright's work has even been featured in the New York Times. He let us in to give us a better idea of what "fracking" is and how it works.

"It's breaking the rock up so that the gas that is down there has a path to come out of the well bore," Wright said.

Wright says energy companies usually drill through rocks called Shale.

"Shale's the most popular because number one, it's really abundant," Wright said.

During fracking sand and water are injected into rocks breaking them apart, making a path for the gas inside the rocks to release.

"The water goes away, the rocks come back together and the sand grains stay there as a buffer between the rocks so they don't close all the way and then the gas has paths to get into the well bore," Wright said.

On a smaller scale Wright demonstrates how the process works.

First he takes small fragments of shale rock and places them into a jar of mineral spirits.Then Wright places the jar under a vacuum.

"See the little air coming out? This is acting like the pressure from above pushing down pushing the gas out of the rock into the well bore and up and out," Wright said.

He says "fracking" allows gas to be collected much quicker.

"If you have a piece of cake and you poke your finger through it this way you're only going to get this much of your finger covered in chocolate. Now we can go horizontally and get the whole thing. So we're able to get more," Wright explained.

Wright says overall fracking is a controlled and environmentally safe process, but he says accidents like water contamination could happen and it is up to companies to use caution.