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Monday, December 16, 2013

In search of benign fracking chemicals

This article describes Apache Corporation's efforts to reduce the volume and toxicity of chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing operations. It's an excellent primer on fracking chemicals and the search for safer alternatives. 

The article says that the amount of chemicals used in a frack job is "minute": "Water and sand make up 98 to 99.5 percent of the hydraulic fracturing fluid, with the exact formulation varying from well to well." So, the remaining 0.5 to 2 per cent is comprised of chemicals. 

But these small percentages translate into big volumes of chemicals. If the average frack job used five to six million gallons of water - as it does it the Marcellus play, for example - that means that each operation uses between 25,000 and 120,000 gallons of chemicals

The article points out a number of co-benefits of reducing hazardous chemical use to exploration and production companies. Reduced chemical volumes not only save money outright but translate into fewer truck trips - saving more money, local air quality, reducing damage to local roads, and improving public safety. Further, eliminating volatile organic compounds would sharply reduce the risk of public health impacts (as would a requirement to use closed-loop, closed container systems for fluid handling).  

These cost and risk reductions are part of the strong, growing business case for sustainable shale gas development.

Apache's search for more benign chemicals is exemplary. The industry must embrace a race to the top on benign chemical use. And start a similar race to waterless fracking

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