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The Shale Play Graphic: It should be noted, that even though our graphic below indicates each play at its shallowest, typical "pay zones" where most fracking takes place in these plays are well below the shallowest point of the shale. What the graphic shows is a "worst case scenario" for each play where, if fracking took place at the shallowest portion of a play, and the process resulted in an overpressurized frack leading to the maximum recorded height of a fracture, contamination could result… in two plays.

Many company's engineers are artists in calculating pressures that only hit the "pay zone". Some companies though, don't always get it right. Longer than intended fractures can occur when frack fluid pressure is miscalculated and overpowers the shale formation being fracked. Regardless, in each worst case scenario, most of the shale plays being fractured in the U.S. lie well below 2000ft from their associated fresh water aquifer. The Bakken is one of the deepest where the "pay zone" is an average of 10,000 feet below the surface and some 6,250 feet below the deepest level of the eastern North Dakota fresh water zone at the play's most shallow point. In the Bakken then, it is quite impossible for the fracturing process to ever contaminate fresh water, even if the fracking process is done in a manner that results in larger than intended fractures. It is thus literally nearly impossible in the Bakken, the Marcellus, and the Eagle Ford, and highly unlikely in the Niobrara.

 
 
Shale Plays
 
 
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