Waterless Fracking Technology May Be Used at New York Site

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A planned shale gas drilling project in New York state would utilize a waterless form of hydraulic fracturing, a new technique designed to reduce the potential pollution associated with the controversial natural gas drilling process.

Rather than using typical hydraulic fracturing technologies — in which a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is pumped into deep shale formations to extract trapped natural gas reserves — developers of a site in Tioga County, N.Y. hope to utilize a technology that pumps a thick gel made from propane into the ground. Unlike water-based technologies, the gel from so-called liquefied propane gas (LPG) fracturing — or gas fracking — reverts to a vapor while underground before it returns to the surface in a recoverable form.

According to its developers, Calgary-based GasFrac Energy Services, the gel also does not carry back to the surface the chemicals used in the drilling. While the plans are still being reviewed by state officials, if approved it would avert the state’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which was imposed in 2010 after environmentalists expressed concerns that the drilling process poses a threat to regional water supplies.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.