Propane substitutes for water in shale fracking
* Canadian firm shoots propane gel into wells
* Process saves water, risks fire
* An engineer gets the willies: “It doesn’t burn nicely”
By Anna Driver
GasFrac Energy Services Inc is winning customers, including Chevron Corp , by using a flammable propane gel instead of the water, chemicals and sand typically blasted into rock or tight sand formations to release trapped oil and gas.
Remember where fracking the shale came from. You’ll never guess where GasFrac started this propane frack lunacy–
Texas, my Texas, in Oh Canada and now they are using it in the Eagle Ford Shale. I think we could expand on the Molly Ivans quote about electing presidents from Texas and include that you shouldn’t adopt drilling practices from Texas either.
Here’s what one engineer thinks about fracking with propane:
“As a former frack engineer, I get the willies when I think about getting anywhere near a frack that is flammable,” he said. “When it catches fire, it doesn’t burn nicely.”
~Richard Spears, a leading oilfield services adviser to the petroleum industry and a former Halliburton Co engineer
Here’s what another engineer thinks about fracking with propane:
Fracing with liquified propane, or butane (LPG):
- still needs large quantities of additional, but different chemicals to add to the LPG;
- needs HD compressor on each site to recondense returned propane/butane for reuse, and additional processing on each site for reuse;
- frac process is now nearly “robotic” because of risks to personnel on the pad;
- have been two explosions/fires in past year, one quite serious with hospitalizations;
- many truckloads of LPG needed for each frac job-these trucks are transporting hazardous material, not water;
- LPG not available in large enough volumes to make this “THE” method in any play with tens of thousands of wells projected;
- the biggies, Schlumberger, Hallliburton, et al. will not like encroachment on their turf..they have billions invested in equipment and personnel training for water based fracing, but they currently say they are “interested” in this new line of research: you make the call
- the ONLY substantive information about the process comes from the company – in effect advertising claims. There has been no independent empirical analysis of the complete life cycle of LPG fracs.
- still transports some materials from downhole just like slick water does and will be subject to the same constraints:
1) communication back to surface via faults and old open wells
2) communication/migration of methane and other downhole crap via casing sealing failures and leaks (cf the Pavilion/EPA study (11-10-11 released) and the “Duke” methane migration study), and
3) surface spills of frac related materials that comes back up
4) the added danger of propane, a heavier than air gas leaking and pooling in low spots near the well pad in large amounts and causing an explosion hazard
Bottom line: no science available to evaluate either env impact of LP frac or the safety thereof. Grasping at straws for a solution to a problem the industry claims does not exist.
A. R. Ingraffea, Ph.D., P.E.
Can we use the term desperate yet?
UPDATE: Apparently this post is on the GASFRAC Energy Services, Inc, Yahoo Financial Page. The link goes to a message board where they call me Sharonick =) and use faulty logic in arguments.
UPDATE 2: More information on propane fracking HERE, where they call it emerging technology and say it is still in its “infancy.”
A search of public research reports on file with the Society of Petroleum Engineers found only two case studies for wells that used propane fracking — one in 2011 and one in 2009.
Propane fracks are currently more expensive than traditional fracking and there is an increased risk from explosion.
“As far as we’re aware, the technology has so far not proved cost-effective for gas wells,” she said. “The technology works best when sufficient infrastructure is in place to allow the propane to be captured and re-used.”
So, in addition to all the infrastructure required to produce, transport and process the gas, now we will have additional infrastructure, all explosive, to transport the propane for fracking. What’s not to love?