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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Will Waterless Fracking Change the Debate?

From Oilprice.com:
One of the biggest complaints levelled at the energy industry when it comes to fracking involves the amount of water used in the process of cracking open layers of shale rock to free trapped oil and gas. 
With an average frack well requiring about 2 million gallons of water, operators are under increasing pressure to limit their usage, and some jurisdictions have suspended water withdrawals to cope with low water levels in their watersheds, the result of low rainfall and higher-than-normal temperatures. 
But what if something other than water could be used alongside sand and chemicals to break apart the layers of shale? While the industry has often used nitrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in so-called “energized” or “foamed” frack fluids to reduce water usage, recent research has focused on the use of C02 to completely eliminate water used in fracking. 
Earlier this year, GE announced that it will allocate an additional $10 billion through 2020 to its “ecoimagination” budget, part of which will go towards investigating the viability of water-less fracking. GE, a major oil and gas industry supplier, will partner with Norway’s Statoil to investigate the use of carbon dioxide in frack wells. The two companies are hoping to find a way to collect CO2 at the wellhead, recycle it and then use it to frack again, repeatedly. In contrast, water can only be used once in a frack because it becomes contaminated with chemicals - creating another problem of how to dispose of all that wastewater.
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