Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to bring oil or gas to the surface after drilling a production well deep into the shale and other rock formations. Traditional fracking techniques include injecting a mixture of water and sand, commonly referred to as “brine,” at a high pressure into the earth to fracture the rock, which then allows the oil or natural gas to flow to the surface.
The large quantity of water used during the fracking process has raised public concerns, but a number of companies have recently experimented with alternative fracking techniques. Chesapeake Energy Corporation collaborated with EV Energy Partners, GasFrac Energy Services, and others to experiment fracking an Ohio oil well using liquid butane and mineral oil, instead of the traditional water technique.
The waterless fracking technique injects a mixture of 75% liquid butane and 25% mineral oil into the pipes at a high pressure in hopes to release the oil and gas deep underground. The alternative fracking technique sparked optimism that the liquid butane method would substitute the millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process and an opportunity to maximize Ohio’s Utica shale play. However, the test has yet to be proven successful and has a high price tag of $22 million compared to the typical costs of well drilling at $7 million.
Although the waterless technique was not an instant success, the industry is looking for advancements that not only reduce the amount of water used, but also optimizes and increases Ohio’s oil and gas production.