New technologies that will remove the “hydraulic” from hydraulic fracturing are on the horizon and will send screaming opponents into the fractivist inferno.
Fracturing of natural gas wells using propane is something we’ve previously discussed here at NaturalGasNOW. It’s definitely feasible and has been used elsewhere but the economics are questionable compared to hydraulic fracturing in many instances, so it’s not caught on yet, although it has been proposed in New York. There were also gas wells that have already been fractured with CO2, which holds the promise of being combined with CO2 capture to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. Now, though, comes another idea, which may be the best of all: fracturing with natural gas itself. It’s likely to send our anti-gas friends into screaming apoplectic fits as they self-immolate in a fractivist inferno.
It’s not a new idea, as this FuelFix article of five years ago indicates, but it’s now been tested. PennState is doing a webinar on March 15 where I expect that’s we’ll learn the preliminary results. Here’s the invitation (emphasis added):
Griffin Beck, Research Engineer, Propulsion & Energy Machinery, Southwest Research Institute will discuss research into natural gas foam as a hydraulic fracturing fluid in place of water.
The primary benefit of this research is the ability to utilize natural gas as the primary fracturing fluid, thus, reducing water use. Traditional fracturing operations throughout the U.S. use a substantial amount of water, much of which is lost permanently or is difficult and expensive to decontaminate. In this research, natural gas will be readily obtained from the wellhead (produced gas) that is typically located near the well site. This technology will eliminate the environmental impact associated with transporting fracturing fluids to and from the well site. The process does not depend on large amounts of water, which will eliminate the flowback water disposal problem associated with traditional hydraulic fracturing. Once the well begins producing natural gas, the natural gas that was used as the primary fracturing fluid can be introduced back into the pipeline.
The research is being performed by the Southwest Research Institute and Schlumberger Technology Corporation under the auspices of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (part of the Department of Energy). The $1.6 million of research has been ongoing since October, 2014 and was supposed to be wrapped in December but has been slightly delayed. The expected benefits at the outset were as follows:
- Reduction of waste product
- Less separation of water and gas required
- Decrease in the formation of emulsion, which will result in fewer blockages in the formation, and thus, improved gas flow
- Less clay swelling, which will result in better well production
- Onsite pressurized natural gas can be used for running field equipment
- Significant reduction in water transport, resulting in less vehicular traffic, emissions, and road wear
How’s it working out? Well, we’ll presumably learn that on March 15 but the latest progress report provides a clue in that the verification method (the proof of whether it’s feasible or not) is described as follows:
Measured data will confirm that the laboratory-scale compression/pump test train is able to accomplish natural gas compression from approximately 200-1000 psi inlet to 10,000 psi outlet in an economically feasible, compact, and portable fashion. This is considered a critical path milestone.
It’s difficult to read between the lines of academic research, which is always filled with obscure terms, CYA caveats and, of course, suggestions for more research, but it’s equally hard not to be optimistic, given Schlumberger’s participation in funding the thing, including additional equipment for use during the period of research extension. We also get a clue from a presentation made a while back by the researchers, which includes this slide:
Will it bear out in the end? Well, we’ll need to sign up for the free webinar to learn, I guess. I just did.
Meanwhile, just imagine the shrieking that will come as the fractivist inferno ignites. It will be spectacular enough to be seen from Elon Musk’s new space vehicle, the pocket of which is stuffed with fruits of his US taxpayer scams. But, don’t expect it to change any minds because fractivism is a faux religious cause with serial protesters and NIMBYs always find new reasons to oppose things.
As for fractivist funders in the NRDC gang, the William Penn Foundation and the like, it’s never been about water for them. It’s always been about the land they want for themselves, which they hope to buy at a discount and sell to the government at profit (the NRDC gang’s special expertise). There’s also the whole guilt thing on the part of these green billionaires and, especially, their desire, as Rupert Darwall puts it so eloquently, to “defend that wealth from predators.” He captures it neatly:
Why are the Silicon Valley Billionaires behind green energy when we know green energy costs a lot? Well, they’re fabulously rich, aren’t they? They are unbelievably rich and they are incredibly powerful. How to defend that wealth from predators? Well you’re going to say, “We’re in the business of saving the planet. We’re fighting these evil capitalists who are destroying the planet, making the air you and your grandchildren are gonna breathe…We fight these people. We’re on the side of good and saving the planet.” I think a big part of the motivation is simply preservation of their wealth and preservation of the power they’ve accreted.
So, none of this potential great news on the horizon will do anything to directly stop fractivists, but it will lead them to set themselves on fire in a giant fractivist inferno that will only further erode their credibility—at the same time as technology leaves them in the dust. Eventually, when the fire dies, they’ll only be a very faint memory, like acid rain and the nuclear freeze, as the green tyrants behind the whole thing move on to some new special interest con.