U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co reported that carbon dioxide will not replace water in fracking in the short run due to limited infrastructure and technical difficulties.
This means that energy firms will continue using at least 2 million gallons of water per fracked well, which is equal to 40,000 baths per person, and therefore place more stress on water supplies in dry American states. It will possibly also slow down the spread of fracking to western China and other arid regions.
Carbon dioxide has been used for many years, since Canadian firm FracMaster rolled out the technology in the 1990s before folding up.
GE is studying how to use frozen carbon dioxide, also known as “super-critical fluid”, for hydraulic fracturing or fracking in a government-backed $10 billion research program. This form of carbon dioxide is neither liquid nor solid. The conglomerate is collaborating with Norwegian energy firm Statoil ASA on the project, which is part of its “ecomagination program” that also researches wind blade design, gas turbine efficiency and other energy ventures.
“Our ultimate vision is to have a fracking process that uses no water, but we’re a ways off from that,” Andrew Gorton, the GE mechanical engineer in charge of the project told Reuters.
Fracking is a controversial method of oil and gas extraction that has drawn the ire of environmentalists who accuse it of polluting groundwater supplies and reducing air quality. However, most of them cautiously hope that the use of carbon dioxide rather than water will lower such risks.
Research has shown that fracking wells with CO2 produces more natural gas or oil as the rocks disintegrate at higher pressure than if water was used. Carbon dioxide can also be reused to frack, unlike water which gets contaminated. However, projects are underway to see how such water can be recycled to ease pressure off local water supplies.
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