Holistic fracking, oil and gas well stimulation using a fracking gel made from ingredients available at your local grocery story, is already here.
A couple of decades ago, the term “holistic” became very trendy. We heard a lot about things such as “holistic medicine” and “whole farming,” both of which emphasized treating the whole rather than the parts. It seems somewhat less in vogue today, now doubt due to overuse, but the idea, which certainly has some validity, persists. We’re now seeing something similar, in fact, with hydraulic fracturing. The mechanism for delivering proppants to keep rock fractures open to flow gas is becoming ever more benign, more holistic. Holistic fracking is here.
A reasonable definition of holistic fracking is a process of hydraulic fracturing where the ingredients used are no different from those you would put in your own body. An article published recently in Rigzone by Liberty Oilfield Services tells the story. Here are some excerpts, which include a certain amount of levity:
One common misconception of current frac fluids used in shale is that they contain hundreds of chemicals. While this was maybe true for exotic frac fluids used decades ago on an occasional high-pressure high-temperature job, the economics of the Shale Revolution have dramatically simplified frac fluids.
As a matter of fact, you can take just four grocery store products from Whole Foods and Walgreens and create your own frac gel. A basic crosslinked guar system can be made with water and four simple items:
- Red Mill Premium Guar Gum – Thickener
- Milk of Magnesia – High pH buffer
- Visine Original Eyedrops – Crosslinker
- Distilled White Vinegar – “Breaker” or low pH buffer
In the photo [below], our Lab Manager Joel Siegel demonstrates an early crosslink of this fluid system. He has just dissolved some guar gum powder in water. Guar gum is powder from the grinded endosperm of a guar seed, and consists of ultra-long organic molecules. These long molecules are ideal as a healthy thickening agent in food like yoghurt or products like toothpaste.
Joel then added some Milk of Magnesia (used to help an “upset tummy”) to get to a slightly alkaline pH level. He then added a few drops of Visine Eyedrops, which contains Boron as a preservative. Boron doubles up as a crosslinker, tying together the long guar molecules to thicken the fluid system even more than before.
Joel mixes this in a blender for about 30 seconds, and you can see in the photo [below] how the crosslinked gel is becoming thicker. You can continue to mix and develop more viscosity by pouring the fluid from one cup into another while the fluid develops the characteristic fluid “lip” showing the proper fluid potential as a carrier system for proppant.
To “break” the fluid back into a low-viscosity base gel you can now add vinegar to lower the pH to stop the effect of the crosslinker. More Milk of Magnesia can be added to get the pH into crosslinking territory again, while more vinegar can be added to stop the crosslinking process. And so on and so forth – we never get enough of playing with gel…
The idea of food-grade hydraulic fracturing fluids isn’t new, of course. Halliburton, for example, has been pioneering the way on this for some time with its CleanStim product. Fracs are also being done CO2, propane and natural gas itself. CO2 and natural fracs are especially holistic, of course, but it’s hard to argue using a fracturing gel made of stuff intended for our own bodies isn’t also holistic fracking.
The big question, of course, is what the increasingly green nature of fracking will mean for fractivism. It will ignored by fractivists, of course, because the entire premise of their opposition to fracking is the supposed secret concoction of dangerous chemicals involved, which is utter nonsense on several levels.
More than that, fractivism, is a philosophy of opposition to oil and gas development, which its adherents suppose is the foundation of a western civilization they despise. That’s why fractivists refuse to accept facts and why they’re losing everywhere but in places such as New York where madness is thought to be a virtue. This article is a little reminder that sanity still prevails elsewhere.