Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard DaviesORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Unconventional oil and natural gas extraction enabled by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is driving an economic boom, with consequences described from "revolutionary" to "disastrous." Reality lies somewhere in between. Unconventional energy generates income and, done well, can reduce air pollution and even water use compared with other fossil fuels. Alternatively, it could slow the adoption of renewables and, done poorly, release toxic chemicals into water and air. Primary threats to water resources include surface spills, wastewater disposal, and drinking-water contamination through poor well integrity. An increase in volatile organic compounds and air toxics locally are potential health threats, but the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation will reduce sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, and particulate air pollution. Data gaps are particularly evident for human health studies, for the question of whether natural gas will displace coal compared with renewables, and for decadal-scale legacy issues of well leakage and plugging and abandonment practices. Critical topics for future research

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jackson RB, Vengosh A, Carey JW, Davies RJ, Darrah TH, O'Sullivan F, Petron G

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Annual Review of Environment and Resources

Year: 2014

Volume: 39

Pages: 327-362

Print publication date: 01/10/2014

Online publication date: 11/08/2014

ISSN (print): 1543-5938

ISSN (electronic): 1545-2050



DOI: 10.1146/annurev-environ-031113-144051