Team:CU Boulder/Background

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CU Boulder iGEM consulted INVST, a local organization that strives to educate the public on a number of environmental causes, one of which is fracking. They advocate that each person educate themselves on the local risks and benefits of fracking, and directed us to look toward two organizations: the Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) Organization which advocates the use of hydraulic fracturing, and with the University of Colorado Fracking Divestment, a group against the use of oil and natural gas. There are many different viewpoints, each seemingly able to support facts to support their arguments. CU Boulder iGEM strives to produce a product that can bring resolution to both sides by creating a sensor that can help defend the claims of oil companies while allowing environmentalist groups to conduct their own contamination tests to prove how they’ve been affected by fracking.

...but first, what is Fracking?

Fracking is the shortened name for “hydraulic fracturing,” a technique used by natural gas companies where a hole is drilled down to the shale layer, and then sand, water, and chemical solvents are injected at high pressures to create fractures in the earth which allow pathways for natural gas to channel up to the drill site. The technique is far more profitable than any alternative natural gas extraction method that nearly all natural gas in the United States is produced as a result of fracking. However, many organizations such as the CU Boulder divestment campaign are against fracking, citing increased dependency on fossil fuels, causing small scale earthquakes, and contamination of air and groundwater as factors. Natural gas companies cannot always control the exact size and direction that the fractures spread, and that is the root of the problems according to environmentalist groups. Nonetheless, the fracking industry is still growing annually, and the problems are persisting, yet US State and Federal governments are not urgent in taking action. It may be important to begin the conversation about what steps are necessary, if any.

We decided to ask other iGEM teams around the world to see what their opinion was, and to gauge fracking’s perspective on a global level.

CU Boulder iGEM encourages everybody to develop their own opinion on fracking. Facts from Live Science and a selection of highly rated fracking films with a variety of stances have been included below as a starting point to spread awareness about hydraulic fracturing practices.



of interviewees were against fracking


Chemicals registered as fracking fluid components at FracFocus


of those are suspected carcinogens


Average recovery of injected fluids


cost of an average contamination test

$34 Billion

annual revenue of fracking industries


Fracknation (2013)

“Journalist Phelim McAleer faces threats, cops, and bogus lawsuits questioning green extremists for the truth about fracking. McAleer uncovers fracking facts suppressed by environmental activists, and he talks with rural Americans whose livelihoods are at risk if fracking is banned”

Gasland (2010)

“It is happening all across America-rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from an energy company wanting to lease their property. Reason? The company hopes to tap into a reservoir dubbed the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas." Halliburton developed a way to get the gas out of the ground-a hydraulic drilling process called "fracking"-and suddenly America finds itself on the precipice of becoming an energy superpower

Triple Divide (2013)

“Triple Divide is built on evidence from cradle-to-grave investigations that attempt to answer the question, “How are state regulations and industry handling impacts from fracking?” Throughout the film’s 10 chapters, which cover waste, class II injection wells, drinking water contamination, split-estates, the “pre-drill test scandal”, and the “pressure bulb” are on the ground accounts of hair-raising journalism.”