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Energy Innovation: New Fracking Methods?

frackingThe 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.

Sarah Battaglia's picture

Thank Sarah for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 7, 2013 8:38 pm GMT

Sarah, I completely understand the value of proprietary information and the costs associated with R&D. But there is no possible way for producers to guarantee fracking fluids will forever remain isolated from groundwater supplies; in fact many instances of leaks have already been found. For that reason, the "among other things" is a problem, and a big one.

The public deserves full disclosure of the composition of fracking fluids, or at a minimum an acceptance of liability. This shouldn't pose a significant problem if the industry is absolutely sure the chemicals can't migrate. Neither have been forthcoming, and indeed are being fought aggressively.

That a Halliburton executive was willing to drink a glass of something or other as a PR stunt is obviously meaningless. Give us the ingredients, research that says they're safe, and the ability for the EPA to test on site - and we'll have policy we can move forward with. If the industry can't accommodate these reasonable requests, they can expect to be fought every step of the way.

Cris Calitina's picture
Cris Calitina on Feb 8, 2013 6:15 am GMT

It is now 3 times more expensive to comply with current drilling fluids and The 3rd annual Drilling Fluids and Cuttings Management Asia conference (13-14 March 2013, Bangkok) will look at implementing environmentally friendly drilling fluids and cuttings strategies to optimize your waste management whilst cutting costs. This forum brings you test data concerning biodegradability and toxicity, tested field examples from operators across Asia and further afield who have optimized their drilling and waste management. Ibu Nelly Hilman, Tony McCoy, Jean Lescure and more experts take a microscopic look at practical strategies focusing on:

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Bobbi O's picture
Bobbi O on Feb 8, 2013 1:24 pm GMT


  I wish you would have explained the Gasfrac Technology in more detail. It doesn't use any water for fracking so there is little waste water to deal with. The fracking fluid is fully recovered and reusable. Truck traffic is only 20% that of a hydrofracking operation.What's not to like?



Sarah Battaglia's picture
Sarah Battaglia on Feb 8, 2013 1:47 pm GMT

There may not be a 100% safe procedure to fracking just yet, but at least drilling companies are realizing the potential impacts. They are beginning to research a variety of ways to improve their techniques in order to ensure public and environmental safety. I agree with you, Bob. The public should get full disclosure of everything being used in the fracking process, and I do believe we are headed in that direction. 

Thanks for commenting.

Bobbi O's picture
Bobbi O on Feb 8, 2013 9:37 pm GMT

 Sarah, This is off the subject but I had a wonderful  young history  teacher named Battaglia at Starpoint in Pendelton New York  back in 1965. He left a lasting impression with me on the evils of discrimination with a tongue in cheek running joke about how terrible eskimos were. Are you related to him? His first name might have been Frank.            Jack O.

Sarah Battaglia's picture
Sarah Battaglia on Feb 11, 2013 12:38 pm GMT

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed your history teacher, Bobbi, but no, there is no relation. I'm slowly beginning to realize I have a very popular last name.  I get asked this type of question a lot!

Jesse Parent's picture
Jesse Parent on Feb 13, 2013 8:10 pm GMT

Important developments in fracking, yes - but closer to energy independence? I don't think so. 

"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."

That's bascically the same idealism that I'm getting from people who are being arrested today to block Keystone XL, just different visions of what a solution means. 

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