ditions, at an a;ordable cost.
“Choosing which technique is best
for a speci;c well should be based on
economics, environmental impacts, and
technical and safety considerations,”
Yost said. “Any new fracturing process must also overcome the technical
and economic barriers of competition
from previously capitalized processes,
demonstrate improved economic rates
of production, and be able to meet the
anticipated operational schedules expected by the oil and gas industry.
“The biggest research and devel-
MARK CRAWFORD is a geologist and independent
opment challenge facing waterless
fracking is the fact that, when a new
concept is developed for a fractur-
ing system, companies are typically
required to work with manufacturers
to develop the equipment for testing
and extraction as well,” Brown said.
“New systems are often incompatible
with current equipment, so in order
to test it or use it, new equipment has
to be custom manufactured. This often
becomes very time-consuming and
costly, so it represents a major hurdle in
Even so, in places where hydrau-
lic fracturing’s water use is becoming
a real constraint to exploiting shale
formations, it’s likely that petroleum
companies will ;nd that it’s worth it
to make the commitment to waterless
writer based in Madison, Wis.
Engineers at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden have
been working hard to develop “cryogenic fracturing”—a waterless fracturing method that uses liquid nitrogen as the drilling
fluid. Chilled to temperatures below -321 ˚F, liquid nitrogen is
pumped down the hole at high pressure. When the super-cold
nitrogen hits the warmer host rock, the rock shatters.
The biggest benefits of cryogenic fracturing are environ-
1) overcoming liquid nitrogen’s lack of energy capacity for
mental—no water or chemicals are used in the process, and
the nitrogen evaporates underground. Initial lab results are
promising, with field testing at a drill site planned in 2015.
Two key challenges, however, remain:
2) keeping the nitrogen cold, both on site and as it travels
thousands of feet to the target formation.
ON THE HORIZON: CRYOGENIC NITROGEN
fracturing methods have
shown about double the
production compared to
wells fractured with water.