Will fracking go waterless?
Fracking currently uses an extreme amount of water (6 million gallons per well), and creates quite a bit of waste from its brine (the water that is used for fracking). The runoff from the brine leaking into drinking water is one of the most prominent and common concerns among fracking protesters.
The wastewater that the process produces is heavily contaminated, but absolutely necessary for the production. This is causing the drilling companies to have a wastewater problem. The current means to disposing of the toxic wastewater is burying it deep inside of pre-approved waste wells. There is also a process in the works for recycling the wastewater, but since the process and need for these recycling centers is so new, there aren’t that too many working recycling centers in the United States. Transportation of such a large amount of water is also extremely difficult, and expensive.
Recently, drilling companies and scientists have posed an interesting theory on how to remedy their water problem. What about removing the need for water all together?
The Recorder calls waterless fracking a “revolutionary new process”. GasFrac, a company that uses the alternative process has been using petroleum gas for fracking. By substituting the water for petroleum they have found that all of the propane and natural gas returns to the surface and can be reclaimed. It also produces more oil than the water-based method. The only downside to waterless fracking is the current cost of propane and its transportation is much higher than water, making it less cost-effective.
Air Products uses another version of the process that injects nitrogen instead of water. However, nitrogen is really only effective in the more shallow wells and would be difficult to use in the deep wells of the Bakken formation.