Monday, July 1, 2013

A Fracking Good Idea

The impact of modern hydraulic fracturing methods - fracking - is enormous.  US imports of energy are down and the amount of natural gas being produced in the US has tripled since 2007.  The supply is so great, it's impacting prices, making gas virtually too cheap to drill for. Should we be able to convince politicians to have the will, the US could be energy independent in the near term - by 2020, or so I've read.

If fracking has a disadvantage, though, it's not the famous problems with burning water, (methane has been found in water for centuries so it's not from the fracking) it's that it uses a lot of water.  It is hydraulic fracturing after all  In case you haven't noticed it, there have been articles appearing for years saying the next big shortage that's going to affect us all is drinkable water. (for example)

In the current copy of trade magazine Machine Design, I noticed an interesting article by writer Elisabeth Eitel which takes on the subject and reveals a very clever idea.
One Canadian company goes even further with a waterless process. GasFrac Energy Services Inc., Calgary, makes equipment that fracks wells with liquid petroleum gas (propane) infused with viscosifying additives. It doesn’t muck up millions of gallons of water. It pulls more fuel out of wells. All the propane is reclaimed.

Water is [a] polar [molecule], so it has a notoriously high surface tension of 72 dyn/cm and tends to get stuck in the capillaries of fracks. In contrast, propane (C3H8) has a surface tension of just 7 dyn/cm, so it easily slips into shale’s nooks and crannies. That helps rig pressure reach deeper into well formations and crack open more recesses. Low surface tension also helps when the process is reversed and pressure is released: Water tends to plug formations, but propane lets more gas flow out for collection. Propane has half the specific gravity of water and small volumes do the job, so tanking sufficient supplies to wells takes fewer trips. After a well tap, propane doesn’t necessitate separate transport back out of the site like water, because it mixes with natural gas and trucks out with the fuel.  [portions in brackets added - link added - SiG]
Frankly, I think this is really ingenious.  The benefits are all enormous there.  No water to recover, or abandon underground; the process extracts more gas with propane than water; plus propane is chemically very similar to the gas being extracted and the gas refinement process undoubtedly can remove it.  That suggests it's reusable.  It simply has everything going for it.  I assume there must be some drawbacks, but I don't see what they might be.
A neat idea that seems like a no-brainer for wide adoption by the gas industry. 


6 comments:

  1. You might be interested in this article :

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2351759/Dirty-tricks-the-fracking-deniers-How-Green-zealots-peddle-cynical-propaganda-stop-Britain-mining-3trillion-shale-gas--lights-141-YEARS.html

    Note the "poison" that is included in the fracking water ...

    Phil B

    ReplyDelete
  2. indyjonesouthereJuly 3, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Considering that greens have complained about just burning off the gas the idea of using it in fracking is win-win.

    ReplyDelete
  3. JMO, but the worst thing about fracking (in my experience which is north-central PA) is the constant rumbling of the water (and other assorted supply) trucks on the roads. That is, however, part of the boom and helps people feed their families. It does blemish the peace and quiet though.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hydraulic fracturing is usually safe but there are research that shows that this process contaminates the ground water so i think the world community should take serious steps to stop this process .

    Thanks
    Bruce Hammerson

    Hydraulic Hammers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Three things: first, people are always more credible when their feedback isn't to promote a commercial site; and second, the "research that this process contaminates ground water" has been pretty soundly refuted in all reputable scientific sources. Like New Scientist for example. And, finally, third, your feedback should relate to the content of the post.

      Simply, fracking typically takes place a mile or more below the ground water. They don't get connected. The issue with water use is that it shouldn't use fresh, drinkable water. The propane process this post is about completely removes this concern.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for sharing the concern Graybeard but i would like to know that how some of the scientist around the world have proved the contamination of ground water through hydraulic fracturing.

      Thanks
      Bruce Hammerson

      Hydraulic Hammers

      Delete