Webinar to focus on research to replace water in fracturing gas wells

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ongoing research on using natural gas-based foams to replace water in fracturing Marcellus and other deep shale formation wells will be the topic of a web-based seminar offered by Penn State Extension. 

The one-hour webinar, "Research on Natural Gas Foam as a Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid," will be presented from 1-2 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, by Griffin Beck, research engineer for propulsion and energy machinery with the Southwest Research Institute. 

Hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to increase oil and natural gas production by injecting a high-pressure fluid to fracture rock and release this trapped energy resource, uses huge amounts of water. Once used, the recovered water represents an environmental challenge because it needs to be treated or stored in underground injection wells. Research is underway to find alternatives to using water as the main fluid. 

One such study, overseen by the National Energy Technology Laboratory, is looking at naturalgas-based foams. Using natural gas, which is readily available at the wellhead and from nearby processing plants, will reduce water use; the need to transport water to and from the site; decrease handling waste products; and minimize traffic, emissions and road wear. 

Research is focusing on the identification and development of an optimized, lightweight and modular surface process to prepare natural gas for injection into the well, according to Beck. "For sites where natural gas supply rates are sufficient, a simple compression process is the most energy efficient method to prepare natural gas for injection into a well," he said.

"While the compressors required for this process are commercially available today, there are some technology gaps that must be addressed before a mobile compressor train can be deployed."

Ongoing research is investigating properties of natural gas-based foams, Beck noted. Research efforts also have  focused on characterizing fluid properties of natural gas-based foams, revealing properties that have not previously been reported in the public literature. To support this work, a pilot-scale test facility was designed and operated and natural gas foams have been tested.

The presentation is part of Penn State Extension's Shale Education Monthly Webinar Series. Upcoming webinars include the following:    

— April 19: "Hydraulic Fracturing Test Site: Field Test Site in the Permian Basin Dedicated to Environmental Safety and Stimulation Efficiency Research," presented by Jordan Ciezobka, senior engineer with Gas Technology Institute, and Gary Covatch, petroleum engineer with the U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory.

— May 17: "Trends in Natural Gas Indexation and Price Transparency," presented by Dexter Steis, executive publisher of Natural Gas Intelligence.

— June 21: "Biomethanation: A Unique and Sustainable Approach to Renewable Natural Gas," presented by Kevin Harrison, program manager of the hydrogen systems integration facility, and Nancy Dowe, group research manager, biological science, both with National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The webinar is free, but registration is necessary. To register, visit the Penn State Extension Natural Gas Events webpage. More information is available by contacting Carol Loveland at 570-320-4429 or at cal24@psu.edu.

Previous webinars, publications and information also are available on the Penn State Extension natural-gas website, covering a variety of topics such as liquid natural gas; seismic testing; methane emissions; water use and quality; Marcellus and Utica basins; natural gas reserves; gas-leasing considerations for landowners; legal issues surrounding gas development; and the impact of Marcellus gas development on forestland.

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Last Updated March 06, 2018