frackingWhat’s the hottest trend in energy that’s causing some countries to jump on the bandwagon?  Fracking.  The process of shooting a water-sand-chemical mix into shale formations in order to release natural gas or oil is quickly spreading across the globe.  Despite its controversial technique, countries like South Africa, China, and Argentina are beginning to follow in America’s fracking footsteps.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, has been implemented in the U.S. for over 60 years.  With over one million wells drilled, and in the midst of an oil and gas boom, the U.S. has advertised the effectiveness of this process, convincing a number of foreign countries to try their luck with the fracking craze.  No matter the country, protestors unite in exposing the potential environmental hazards that come with the process, but most countries choose to disregard these movements.

China is the world’s largest energy consuming nation and one of the top importers of oil.  Its oil fields may be drying up, but the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates 1,275 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas can be found here.  China has a plan to be producing 6.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas each year by 2015, and by 2020 it may be extracting 100 billion cubic meters.  China is slowly moving away from its smog-producing coal plants and PetroChina is taking that initial step by recently signing its first production agreement with Shell.

South Africa is also looking to make it big with the fracking frenzy.  Last year, government officials lifted a fracking moratorium, bringing out the optimism of energy experts.  A study performed by Econometrix Ltd. believes this act could boost South Africa’s economy by $24 billion per year!  But there are still concerns regarding damage to the country’s limited water supply and unique environment, which accommodates wildlife, livestock, and ancient human fossils.

Following the U.S. and China, Argentina possesses the third largest known natural gas deposits.  With its lenient government and minimal restrictions, Argentina often welcomes companies to its western shale fields.

It comes as no surprise that Canada has also become an active participant in the fracking craze.  Areas like Alberta and British Columbia have become hotspots for many oil and gas companies.  Canada entered a fracking boom in the 1990s and is currently dealing with the same difficulties as the U.S.: water contamination and air pollution.  Even so, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is predicting shale gas production to triple within the next ten years.

Finally, India has found itself as a major contributor to the fracking boom thanks to a small bean referred to as guar.  This unexpected agent is what Indian drilling companies use for horizontal fracking, since it thickens water which helps transfer sand sideways into the well.  Local farmers have been busy cultivating guar to keep up with the high demand from these drilling companies.

The fracking obsession has spread to all corners of the globe.  Other areas currently dabbling in this technique or contemplating the idea include Denmark, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Poland.  What country do you think will get hit with the fracking bug next?