Energy Innovation: New Fracking Methods?
- February 7, 2013
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The energy industry is attempting to make hydraulic fracturing nontoxic. Is this really possible? Believe it or not, it may be achievable. About one half of a percent of fracking fluid contains chemicals; the rest consists of water and sand. Halliburton Inc. has formulated a new product named CleanStim that may improve this half percent and change the energy industry as we know it.
Although chemicals only account for a very small percentage of fracking fluid, if the drilling process requires four million gallons of water, the total amount of chemicals used would be about 20,000 gallons. While most chemicals used in the process are harmless, and even though they are injected well below ground away from aquifers and surface water, employees at Halliburton have made it their duty to ensure safety to nearby residents as well as the environment.
To act as an extra safety precaution in case an incident does occur while drilling, Halliburton has skillfully developed CleanStim using only ingredients from the food industry. In fact, to show how harmless this product is, a Halliburton executive proceeded to drink the fluid in front of an audience at an industry conference. According to Halliburton, “The CleanStim fluid system components include a gelling agent, crosslinker/buffer, breakers and a surfactant. Before use, the CleanStim formulation is mixed at the job site with water provided by the operator.” Other than environmental safety, the “CleanStim fluid system provides excellent performance in terms of pumpability, proppant transport and retained conductivity.”
What exactly is this product made of, you ask? As indicated by Halliburton’s chart, organic acid, inorganic salt, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil can all be found in the mix. The listed ingredients are the same as those likely found in fruit juice, food starch, soybean paste, and alcoholic beverages, among other things.
CleanStim may become the ultimate solution to fracking, but it is still too early to tell if it will be accepted by the majority of drilling companies. But not to worry; a number of other organizations are also taking part in this clean fracking movement in hopes of convincing the population that it can be done safely.
A Calgary based company named GasFrac has started to use a new substance for its primary fracking fluid. Instead of water, a liquid petroleum gas gel is being used to force the rock apart. Once this fuel vaporizes, it rises to the surface and can be reused for future fracking or sold as fuel.
Another solution that may emerge comes from WaterTectonics. This company uses electric current to hold contaminant particles together in order to be removed from the water. Similarly, Ecosphere Technologies practices a process called advanced oxidation, in which ozone is used as a disinfectant to clean the water. According to CEO Charles Vinick, 100 percent of the water used in this process can be recycled.
These four companies have developed just a few of the designs that will significantly improve the process of hydraulic fracturing. As technology continues to improve and businesses become more ambitious with their efforts, consumers are sure to see a difference in their energy rates. Some may think fracking is a hazardous procedure to all those involved, but when modern safety methods are incorporated, hydraulic fracturing can be a useful method in obtaining natural gas and bringing us one step close to energy independence.