For the products liability practitioner, hydraulic fracturing represents a unique process that has been used to develop natural resources in almost a million wells. Growth of this kind typically results in increased legal issues, especially with a regulatory framework in flux. An increase in the number of lawsuits involving the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process may also follow, and practitioners would be well-served to educate themselves on these issues sooner rather than later.
While used since the early 1950s, hydraulic fracturing, more commonly referred to by the media as "fracking," has come under the microscope lately because it is the preferred method for developing unconventional natural gas plays. The process of hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of millions of gallons of water per well that fracture the rock that traps the gas. The fracturing water usually contains proppant and other chemicals to keep the fractures open and allow the gas to flow up the well. The fracturing fluid is either reused or disposed of depending on the system in place.