A new superior natural gas drilling technique has gathered global attention, and is locally tied to New York. Over 2,000 landowners may arrange an agreement with Calgary-based GasFrac Energy Services to utilize a thick gel made from propane as a substitute for water to carry the chemicals and sand needed to fracture shale rock. If proven effective it could potentially allow for the extraction of shale gas and oil from 135,000 acres in Tioga County, N.Y.
Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) fracturing is similar to hydraulic fracturing in that they both drill vertically, horizontally and fracture rock to release trapped gas; yet, LPG fracturing has exclusive benefits that may cure genuine hydraulic fracturing concerns namely, disposing of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater. One particularly exciting attribute to LPG fracturing is that the propane gas is said to turn to vapor underground, return to the surface without drilling chemicals or radioactivity, and can then be collected, reused or resold as propane. Don Leblanc, principal consultant at Eastex Petroleum Consultants stated, “this is a game changer for the industry” and “since the propane becomes part of the reservoir flow, the generated fracture is completely cleaned up.” LPG fracturing is considered to be two to three times better at increasing the flow of oil and gas in comparison to traditional methods and was noted by Chevron in its annual report as a technology that “significantly increases production while minimizing water usage.”
The Department of Environmental Conservation stated that LPG fracturing would require assessment under the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act, and the Natural Resources Defense Council is urging the DEC to perform an environmental impact statement prior to permitting LPG wells, pointing out, “clearly, there are environmental concerns that are going to be different from those from fracking with water, and they have to be evaluated before they can proceed.”
In time, LPG fracturing may become the most extensively used drilling technique across Pennsylvania and New York because of its many scientific and “green” advantages, and it is reassuring to know a new technology that is right around the corner can minimize the use of our state’s vital and precious natural resource – water.