Scientists moot 'green fracking' technique

June 21, 2016
Fracking has transformed the US energy market in the last decade, and today accounts for two-thirds of natural gas—and half of crude oil—produced in the country

Adding CO2 instead of water to the cocktail used in fracking, could boost oil and gas extraction and help fight global warming at the same time, scientists said Tuesday.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", harvests locked inside shale formations by injecting a mix of water, chemicals and sand at .

This creates tiny fissures in the rock, allowing or oil to escape once the pressure is released.

The sand—wedged inside the cracks—helps to keep the fissures open.

But there are limitations to the technique, said Benoit Coasne, a French scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and senior author of a study in Nature Communications.

Using water works well at first but effectiveness tapers off, followed by a "rapid decline in productivity," Coasne told AFP.

At a microscopic level, "energy barriers" form and eventually restrict the number of methane molecules that can extracted, he explained.

Coasne and colleagues used computer simulations and statistical modelling to look for a more efficient approach.

They found that swapping water for CO2—heated to a point where it is midway between a liquid and a gas—would eliminate the problem, thus prolonging the operating life of a fracking well.

"Our study demonstrates that alternative solutions are possible," said Coasne.

There is also a potentially huge side benefit: carbon dioxide naturally replaces methane within the rock pores, "raising hopes that CO2 could be stored in the ground."

CO2 is by far the largest driver of .

Boomerang effect

Opponents of fracking warn against its environmental impacts, especially water contamination and the possibility it may trigger earthquakes.

It is unknown how much methane—25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas—leaks into the atmosphere.

Coasne's team made no attempt to calculate the potential cost of using CO2 in fracking fluid, or how much of the heat-trapping gas could be safely stored in capped wells.

Moving from theory to practice "is a big step," Coasne acknowledged, and further research must determine whether the idea is feasible.

"We feel that it is important to present scientific facts to help politicians and the public to decide."

Fracking has transformed the US energy market in the last decade, and today accounts for two-thirds of natural gas—and half of crude oil—produced in the country.

In 2000, the technique accounted for less than two percent of domestic oil production.

But the boom has contributed to a plunge in global oil prices, which has boomeranged to hit the fracking sector hard.

Dozens of shale drillers have declared bankruptcy within the last year.

Experts say that $50 (44 euros) a barrel—where oil is today—is roughly the threshold of profitability for shale .

Explore further: Test aims to identify shale gas hazard in groundwater

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Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he would ban hydraulic fracking in New York State, citing health concerns about the controversial oil and gas drilling technique.

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10 comments

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Shootist
1.7 / 5 (12) Jun 21, 2016
Drill here, drill now.

$2.00 gasoline is a glory to behold (and not just because Obama said we'd never see $2.00 a gallon gasoline ever again, the lying POS).
shavera
4.6 / 5 (9) Jun 21, 2016
Natural gas is not the same thing as gasoline. Low gas prices are largely because Saudi Arabia has more-or-less manipulated the market by pumping excessive amounts of oil, keeping costs low. You could argue a host of reasons why they're choosing to do that, and I'm sure your favoured political view will tell you which reason they are. In a more rational market, no, we likely wouldn't have seen $2 gasoline.
shavera
3.9 / 5 (7) Jun 21, 2016
Even climate change arguments aside, there's good reasons not to extract all the oil we can right now. Petroleum reserves are an asset. What can you do with assets? Borrow against them. Should a real need arise for us to suddenly need financing for something (a major disaster, a war, etc.), those reserves help to provide the underlying faith that our debts will be repaid (we can always sell off the oil to repay debts in the future). Leaving fuels in the ground provide much more financial flexibility than pumping them out, selling them cheaply, burning them once, and benefit vanishes.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (5) Jun 21, 2016
Drill here, drill now.

$2.00 gasoline is a glory to behold (and not just because Obama said we'd never see $2.00 a gallon gasoline ever again, the lying POS).
An interesting phenomenon: As gas gets cheaper, vehicles get heavier and engines more powerful. SUVs and chargers and mustangs get popular.
Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (4) Jun 21, 2016
FTA -
"CO2 is by far the largest driver of global warming."

Until all that methane gets released.
DON'T LIGHT THAT MA-!"
SteveS
5 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2016
@Shootist

Drill here, drill now.

$2.00 gasoline is a glory to behold (and not just because Obama said we'd never see $2.00 a gallon gasoline ever again, the lying POS).


"I'm 100 per cent Democrat myself, and I like Obama."
Freeman Dyson

http://www.thereg...terview/

Will you be voting democrat now?
ab3a
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 21, 2016
Yes, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. However, burning methane releases much less carbon dioxide than coal. In fact, much of the reductions of Carbon Dioxide emissions have been due to a switch from Coal to Methane.

So even though casual methane releases are not good for the environment, as a fuel it is still a significant improvement over fuels derived from coal.
tommo
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2016
Thermal analysis of any Steam-Age power plant is their maximum efficient by theory is 40%, in practice use 1/3 meaning you burn 2-Joules to get 1-watt of electricity which if one is selling fuel is a great racket, eh?

Yet, now having battery-inverter arrays to 2-Mwh in 40ft containers backing up the grid and solar-wind proving they are cheaper begs a big question, once the generation capacity of each steam plant is doubled, that's the direct heating of the planet by this power generation method so have you compared that aspect of generation methods?

Let's do that, so the bitch is storage with wind-solar to be baseload reliable and it is! Battery-inverter arrays passed that goal at least 5-years ago in practice just buy more the deal now.

Now let's see if I want a Mwh of power I pay how much to fuel the operation each time? That's instead of a capital investment for 1-Mwh of capacity in wind-solar&storage which is a by-the-month for an asset on the books, not lost profit.
BongThePuffin
Jun 22, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ChiefFartingDog
Jun 22, 2016
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