The Case for Green Fracking

One of the most divisive issues in the oil and gas industry today is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Not everyone may know what fracking is, but most people have heard the word thrown around in the media. Environmentalists have led a public outcry against the practice, with celebrities like Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo adding star power to the cause.

Fracking, which uses pressurized, chemically treated water to release oil and gas trapped in rock formations, requires enormous stores of fresh water and leaves toxic liquid waste behind.  The practice also increases the risk of methane gas leaks into the atmosphere, potentially adding to our greenhouse gas burden.  Furthermore, research indicates fracking and the resulting waste water storage may stimulate earthquakes by stressing existing fault lines to the point of failure.

What’s not to love?

Actually, the economies are pretty darn attractive. A recent Brookings Institution analysis credited fracking with annual reductions in residential natural gas bills totaling $13 billion between 2007 and 2013.  That is an average savings per household of $200.

Delegates in attendance at a recent NG Oil and Gas Summit agreed that, to remain sustainable, the industry must address the issues surrounding fracking, and they discussed current viable green options during a roundtable session dedicated to environmental concerns.

One technique that generated a lot of conversation was plasma pulse technology, which uses electronic impulses, or vibrations, to extract oil and gas. Using no water or chemicals, plasma pulse is not only environmentally friendly but less costly than traditional methods.

In the state of California, you don’t even need a permit to use plasma pulse because no chemicals or water are used. Only a laptop computer and wire-link truck are required when working with Propell Technologies, which exclusively licenses plasma pulse in the United States.

Another green alternative is GasFrac’s gelled-fluid fracking system, which not only is water-free, but pumps slower and requires less liquid because it retains sand better. And since the hydrocarbon concentrations in the gel mirror that of the ground, there is no need to drain waste water.

Even hydraulic fracking providers are looking for ways to clean up their process, with some producers using recycled water, or switching to natural-gas powered engines instead of diesel, and treating waste water on site.

And while one green technology has not emerged as the obvious solution for fracking, the environment is winning during the decision-making process.

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