Hydraulic fracturing – is industry standard practice the best practice? The case for waterless fracking

Fracking Coal seam gas Natural gas

The Northern Territory Government has lifted its moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of onshore unconventional natural gas reservoirs, paving the way for a potentially lucrative nature gas industry. The fracking process, however, is viewed with broad suspicion and antipathy in the community with significant minority groups opposed to all forms of the industry. Much of this concern is environmental and relates to the large volume of water used in the process and the chemical additives in that water. Innovations in the industry are making fracking a safer and more efficient process. The successful application of waterless fracking eliminates many of the environmental risks associated with traditional fracking. The use of a liquified natural gas gel instead of water can produce a rock fracture that is cleaner and more efficient than water fracking. To date, however, the industry has been slow to apply this fracking technique.

Key points:

  • A strong antipathy to hydraulic fracturing or fracking exists in the community largely focused on the risk of environmental damage, arising mainly from problems experienced in the coal seam gas industry.
  • Waterless fracking, where alternative fluids are used to provide the hydraulic energy to fracture rock and release natural gas, is a relatively recent innovation designed to make fracking a more safe and efficient process.
  • The use of liquified natural gas compressed into a thick gel has been successfully employed as a fracking medium that does not carry the environmental risk that exists when water is used.
  • Waterless fracking can facilitate improved controls on the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as the need to burn off or flare natural gas can be reduced or eliminated.
  • The use of liquid petroleum gas to form a completely hydrocarbon based fracturing system provides significant benefits and efficiencies that contribute positively to gas well production.
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