RBN Energy: The Prospects for LPG/Propane Gel Fracturing.
A few years ago, water-based or “hydraulic” fracturing emerged as a viable, cost-effective technique for coaxing large volumes of natural gas and crude oil out of U.S. shale formations. Calling it a game-changer is not an overstatement. In the shadows, another approach to fracturing was being developed, one that uses a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane gel and appears to offer some noteworthy benefits over tried-and-true hydraulic fracking.
Today, we consider the potential for niche applications (and maybe much more) for fracturing that’s based on a hydrocarbon-based gel—not water.
New York State recently imposed a ban on the use of high volume hydraulic fracking (involving more than 300,000 gallons of water per well). The ban follows a 7-year moratorium on the technology and appears to put the kibosh on the use of fracking to recover crude and natural gas in the Empire State, whose southern tier (from Buffalo to the Hudson River) is part of the hydrocarbon-rich Marcellus/Utica. But New Yorkers are an innovative lot; native sons George Eastman invented the Kodak camera and rolled photo film, Jonas Salk thought up the polio vaccine, and Peter Cooper invented Jell-o (and, to show the breadth of his abilities, he also built the first steam locomotive in the U.S.). Now, faced with a prohibition on water-based fracturing, Tioga Energy Partners (TEP) plans to use not water (or Jell-o) but an LPG/propane gel to fracture tight underground formations in New York’s Tioga County, deliver proppant and allow hydrocarbons to flow into a well.
More on TEP’s plans in a moment; first, a summary of how LPG fracking (also known as propane gel fracking) works, and the economic and other benefits it offers. As we have previously explained, hydraulic fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water (an incompressible—widely available, and generally cheap—fluid) and proppant (usually sand) at high pressure into a horizontal well.I'm not holding my breath. For New Yorkers, fracking is fracking regardless of the method used.