A Canadian company is a leader in the relatively unknown area of non-hydraulic fracking. GasFrac of Calgary fracked its first well in 2008 using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane gel instead of water and says that its technology is safe and clean and more reliable than the hydraulic form of fracking. More importantly, it is more productive, the company says.
Conventional hydraulic fracturing for natural gas uses enormous quantities of water, and there are concerns about the contaminated water getting into the ground water. But LPG, according to GasFrac, is safe and 100 per cent recoverable. The LPG, which is a gel, turns to vapour when released underground and returns to the surface with the natural gas. It does not bring the chemicals used for drilling back to the surface.
The company has been working in Texas since 2010, and boasts that no water is used in its fracking operations. It has done about 100 fracks there so far, some as deep as 10,000 feet, and says that the waterless process is especially suitable for water-challenged Texas. Water that is recovered from fracking wells, and millions of gallons can be used to open a single well, is typically not reused but deposited in disposal wells.
One of the perceived drawbacks to waterless fracking is the necessity of trucking in such huge quantities of LNG. However a spokesman for GasFrac told the Texas Tribune that virtually all of the propane they use is reused, and supplies are readily available. Propane is a byproduct of natural gas processing and oil refining, so in Texas there is no shortage, he says.