Will waterless fracking silence the anti-frac crowd?

June 11, 2013

There are three broad categories of environmental complaint against fracking – water contamination, earthquakes, and emissions.  Although none of the objections are currently supported by the existing data, they remain the primary points in both propaganda and litigation.  And, among the three, alleged water contamination gets the most play.  Chief among contamination fears are claims that the fluids used in fracking – which contain a number of harmful chemicals – do or will eventually seep into groundwater.

Another issue with fracking is that it takes a large amount of water – sometimes millions of gallons – to produce the gas.  Even if we were to put environmental concerns aside, that is a production issue that eliminates many sites that would otherwise be highly productive, because the water is not available.

Recently, however, advances have been made in waterless fracking.  A Canadian company has had proven success using liquified propane gas on hundreds of wells across Canada, while a US company(Expansion Energy) has developed an even more advanced process using cold compressed natural gas – after an initial priming, this allows well engineers to utilize gas from the site itself in a closed loop.  In addition to being waterless, the entire process uses less energy in the production of gas, boosting the important energy return on investment (EROI).

Below is an illustration of the process.  Expansion Energy has an entire portfolio of advanced energy-supporting technologies that bear keeping tabs on .

waterless fracking diagram

This technology is unlikely to silence the anti-fracking crowd, many (if not most) of whom are just anti-fossil fuel will simply shift tactics.  But it very well could deprive them of their most effective avenue of attack.


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