A Better Way to Frack?
May 23, 2011
The innovation that has unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas is a process known as hydrofracking --or fracking for short -- in which horizontal drilling is combined with blasts of pressurized water and sand. But for critics, the natural gas unlocked by fracking may come at too great a cost, says Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine's science correspondent.
The biggest, most headline-grabbing fear is that fracking chemicals will contaminate drinking water. Luckily, there may be a technical fix that addresses these water worries and does an end run around drilling opponents: gas-fracking.
- Developed by GasFrac Energy Services in Alberta, Canada, gas-fracking uses liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which consists mostly of propane, instead of water to crack open shale formations to release oil and natural gas.
- The company produces an LPG gel using phosphate esters, iron sulfate activator and magnesium oxide.
- None are seriously toxic or are thought to be carcinogenic.
- The injected LPG gel combined with sand fractures shale formations to release trapped oil and/or natural gas.
So far the evidence suggests that the worst fears about hydrofracking appear to be considerably exaggerated by opponents of natural gas drilling. Nevertheless, a technology like gas-fracking may be just what the clean energy proponents are looking for, says Bailey.
Source: Ronald Bailey, "A Better Way to Frack?" Reason Magazine, May 17, 2011.
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