Drilling & Fracturing
Technological improvements to hydraulic fracturing
The United States is experiencing a boom in energy production, thanks to hydraulic fracturing. Practically every natural gas and oil well drilled in America is hydraulically fractured using a mixture that is 99.5 percent water and sand and .5 percent chemical additives.
As hydraulic fracturing has become more widespread, the development of new and improved technologies has ramped up.
The oilfield service companies that actually do the hydraulic fracturing are competing with each other with new technologies in order to gain competitive advantages. For example, Halliburton now offers a fracturing fluid that can be used with brackish water and recycled water in order to reduce the consumption of freshwater. “For all intents and purposes we can reuse water for fracking without doing any significant form of filtration,” said Steve Ingram, Halliburton’s manager for technology and marketing in North America.
Another oilfield service company, Schlumberger, offers a family of fluid additive systems called OpenFRAC that are well suited for recycling and reuse. According to Schlumberger, OpenFRAC assures high performance: “Operators receive full disclosure of additive components, a disclosure level similar to that used in the food industry.”
Other companies are working on technologies to lower water consumption. The Wall Street Journal reports that GE is working on “pressurizing gases like propane or carbon dioxide into gels or foams to replace water used in fracking.”
According to the article: Mike Bowman, who directs GE's research in advanced sustainable-energy technology, says there are problems to solve before the technology can be widely adopted. But the appetite from customers is there, he says. Says Mr. Bowman, "The biggest environmental advantage is getting water out of the equation."
As hydraulic fracturing becomes more widespread, so will the development of new and improved technologies to keep up with the demand.