Natural gas company Cheasapeake Energy is testing new formulations of fluids for hydraulic fracturing that contain environmentally-benign ingredients, according to Bloomberg. This news caught my eye as I’ve been researching this and related shale gas development topics for many weeks.
In hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – millions of gallons of water, mixed with proppants, usually grains of sand, and small amount of chemicals, are injected deep into a gas well. Forcing this mixture into the horizontal portions of a well and into the shale formation fractures the rock and allows the gas to flow to the surface.
For the most part, the fluid’s job is to imbed the grains of sand into the fractures. The added chemicals do other things – for one thing, they prevent scale from forming in the fractures. In addition, well operators also use biocides to limit the amount of bacteria, which can clog up the works. Acid-producing bacteria can even damage the well casing. Another important element is friction reducers, to help the liquid and proppants reach farther into the shale. These are normally simple polymers.
There has been much public concern about possible environmental or health impacts from fracking chemicals. Now, many providers of chemicals that are used in fracking are swapping earlier formulations for ones made up of food-safe or GRAS compounds.
If you have any questions or comments about hydraulic fracturing or fracking chemicals feel free to put them in the comments – I’ll do my best to find answers or point you to helpful resources. One website that gives details about fracking chemicals is http://fracfocus.org/
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