Media 2

The awkward “k” in “fracking”

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Manager of Science and Communications, FracTracker Alliance

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We are often asked why there is no “k” after “frac” in our name, FracTracker. This makes for lively conversations at parties, I assure you. Quite frankly, the etymology of the term “fracking” would make for its own interesting study, especially if you include fans of Battlestar Galactica in your research.

Truth-be-told, our name stemmed from an intense academic vs communications debate. FracTracker originally started as a project within the University of Pittsburgh. As many people in the field of know, academics are not known for brevity in the naming of projects or publications. We wanted a name that embodied both the research and community aspects of our work but was short enough to say all in one breadth. Calling such a new initiative “The Mapping of Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction Data at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities,” while accurate, just doesn’t flow off the tongue nicely.

At the time “fracking” was a term used in some circles to refer to the entire process of extracting natural gas and oil using non-traditional methods – even though it technically only refers to the hydraulic fracturing of a well to stimulate hydrocarbon retrieval. A project partner of ours suggested the name “FrackTracker,” since we planned to track all activity related to unconventional oil and gas drilling. According to people who work in industry, however, including a “k” in the word fracking just doesn’t make sense… And rightly so; there is no “k” in the phrase hydraulic fracturing, so why should there be one in fracking? Even though fracking is now a term commonly used to discuss the industry as a whole, we still decided to omit the awkward “k” just in case.

#didntneedtoknow but #thanks


FracTracker became an independent non-profit in 2012 called FracTracker Alliance. Learn more about us >

2 replies
  1. Mrs. K
    Mrs. K says:

    According to the rules of spelling, , add a k to a word ending in c when adding a terminal beginning with e, i. Examples: picnic , picnicking . Frac fracking.
    If it were left as hydraulic fracturing it wouldn’t be an issue but because the term frac was coined to refer to it then the spelling rule applies.

    • FracTracker Administrator
      FracTracker Administrator says:

      You’re quite right about the story behind “fracking,” Mrs. K. This article was more of a reference as to why we don’t use that spelling.

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