Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened up huge reservoirs of oil and gas across the U.S. The Energy Information Administration predicts that production of shale gas in particular will continue to rise steeply, increasing 44 percent between 2011 and 2040. If fossil fuels are to remain a large part of the nation's energy mix, engineers need to reduce their environmental impacts.
The Closed Cycle
Oil and gas companies send millions of gallons of pressurized water—along with chemicals and sand—down wells to fracture shale. But the liquid, called flowback, returns to the surface filled with contaminants, making it unusable for other purposes—even fracturing new wells. Water-treatment technology is still in its "45rpm phonograph" stage says David Burnett, a Texas A&M petroleum engineer who oversees pilot studies of prototype systems for the Department of Energy. Of various methods now in development, membrane-filtration technology is especially energy efficient and site adaptable: Engineers can fine-tune a series of membranes to remove different substances from water as it passes through. Such on-site systems could reduce the need for freshwater, critical in arid regions of the U.S.
The Hydrocarbon Fix
Ideally, drillers would eliminate the use of water in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, altogether. A Canadian well-fracturing company called GasFrac has developed a substitute: a gel made from liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and propane. Because it's a hydrocarbon, the gel dissolves into the target oil or gas and returns to the surface with the rest of the payload. But because the gel does not dissolve salts or clay in the shale, it doesn't sweep natural contaminants back out of the well. Chevron reported that LPG used in a pilot test conducted in Colorado in 2011 significantly increased natural-gas production while minimizing water usage
The Microbial Rescue
In 2011, oil and gas operations flared or vented almost 210 billion cubic feet of natural gas that they couldn't use or store—enough to heat more than two million homes for a year. In North Dakota's Bakken shale formation, drillers flared or vented 32 percent of the gas produced during oil extraction (the national average is less than 1 percent) because they lacked sufficient pipelines and processing facilities. A consortium that includes the National Renewable Energy Laboratory launched a project in January to convert the surplus gas into diesel or jet fuel. Scientists will genetically engineer microbes that naturally feed on methane to boost the amount of lipids they produce. They will then convert those lipids into a feedstock that could be piped to a refinery or used on-site.
Ive got an idea! Dont sh*t where you drink! Problem solved. Who needs clean drinking water, I mean they sell water at like every store, I want my gas 10 cents cheaper DAMMIT!
This is what an energy crisis looks like. When you get all the cheap oil and gas you are left with shattering the bedrock to gain access to the bits trapped between them.
"In 2011, oil and gas operations flared or vented almost 210 billion cubic feet of natural gas that they couldn’t use or store—enough to heat more than two million homes for a year. In North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation, drillers flared or vented 32 percent of the gas produced during oil extraction (the national average is less than 1 percent) because they lacked sufficient pipelines and processing facilities."
I'm no math genius but, doesn't that mean that the national average is 99% for oil and gas that IS stored and used? So if 1% = 210 billion cf then 99% is:
210 billion cf x 99 = 20,790,000,000,000cf(20trillion 790billion cubic feet of natural gas) that IS being stored and/or used. Enough to heat those same 2 million homes for 99 years?
If I'm correct, then I'd hardly call that 'bits'.
Today's magic is tomorrow's technology.
The problem with fracking is the collateral damage. In the ocean, a spill might ruin some beaches for a couple months. Even with the BP spill, my friend living on the gulf coast never saw the tar balls and such. I'm sure they existed, but not to the extent the media played it up. But with fracking, it's in the middle of people's backyards. So the collateral damage is obvious and immediate. In reality, it's probably no more destructive than other methods and fuels, but since it is close to home there will be grumbles.
The first step to repairing the bad reputation would be to actually allow regulators to oversee the process and stop trying to hide what is being done. Give up the loopholes and prove that the process is as safe and clean as they say it is, instead of hiding behind political walls.
Also, can someone who supports fracking explain what magical principle keeps those lovely little cracks displayed in the drawing above from spreading and unsettling the strata above it? How do they make the magical explosion that only allows the rock to crack just so far, and that everything that comes out automatically seeps in the well pipe?
Well it is pretty simple geology/physics/engineering franklinstower, the massive amounts of pressure above and around where they are fracking which prevent the cracks from spreading and unsettling 'strata', which isn't even the correct term anyways.In reality the fractures go 50 to 150 feet initially, but due to the massive amounts of pressure almost instantly reseal, which is why they actually push porous sandlike material into the cracks to keep them open. As far as everything magically coming back into the pipe, it is a simple matter of pressure and the perforation in the pipe being the only place for the liquids to go is into the pipe and up to the surface, hope this helps.
Drillers do not "inject" water to fracture the rock... They "drill" the hole. Hence the name, driller. You made it sound like the drilling rig is around for years on end. most wells take less than 10 days. Government agencies are also on site when ever they want to be aswell as the land owners. after all, they own the land. hydraulic fracturing isn't new at all. the first time this "new" technology was used was in the late 1940's. please, do yourself a favor and hit the search button. there is a lot of great information out there. it's not a matter of sticking a straw in a glass to get the hydrocarbons out of the ground.
I work in the field as a fracker, and would like to clear up a couple of inaccuracies.
1- drilling rigs drill, yes they pump products down the Well but that is not to fracture the formation theirs is for lubricant and material displacement.
2- yes tracking uses thousands of cubic meters of water. Sourced mostly from lakes and streams, (amounts are government regulated via permits) or burrow pits, but we DO use a lot of produced water (flow back or Debolt water this contains sulfides) as well. it is also true that technology for using these types of water are in their infancy, but hundreds of thousands/millions of dollars are currently being spent to find a safe manageable solution.
3- I am not a geological engineer, but I can say there are many tests and simulated models done on the well core samples to determine what type or style of treatment should be used to minimize formation damage yet gain efficiency from a well. As for people who worry about contaminated water reservoirs, the following is true from my experiences. The wells I fracture are 2000+ meters deep before they "kick off" now I am sure anyone who has drilled a water well knows you don't even come close to this depth. Not to mention the different layers and type of rock between the pay zone and water table.
There are styles of treatments that minimize fracture width, and length. The biggest risk is in shallow wells. In my area tho most wells are over 1 mile deep before they go horizontally.
4- We ARE regulated by many and I mean many rules, watchdog's, environmentalists, government agencies as well as in house consciences.
In whole we provide a Service to help energy companies be more efficient and create less environmental impact.
Fracturing doesn't flare, we don't drill, we don't pipeline, and we don't flow, we only pump fluids down at the request of a client. This allows them to drill less holes and minimize their impact on the environment.
Fracturing began 40 years ago and like society will keep evolving for the better and for people, the environment, and the companies that pay the bills.
Also there is a ton of information on the internet, some people do really need to dig and read the science and technology used in fracturing vs say drilling vs say cementing.
One note I should make is I am from Canada, and know our regulations are more strict than those of the US from drilling to cementing the wells, and even disposal of products.