Halliburton's Role in Fracking Fluid Innovations

Back in September, MetalMiner interviewed Andrew Browning of the Consumer Energy Alliance about the future of US energy policy, including the role shale gas plays in the energy supply. When asked about fracking specifically the shorthand for “hydraulic fracturing, the practice of blasting through shale rock with a “cocktail of water and chemicals to access the gas Browning responded with this:

“I think the issues that people have [with fracking] are really fixable. If the industry concentrates on constant improvement and best practices on wellhead integrity, on cement specifications, on reducing use of open-water pits, on recycling water¦it’s something that industry can address and is addressing right now.

A large concern and the rallying cry of many environmental/consumer advocacy groups — is that the chemicals in fracking solutions (such as hydrochloric acid) are polluting water supplies. It turns out Halliburton, a leader in fracking technology (and a firm with more than its fair share of media vilification) released a new and what they claim to be safer cocktail to use in fracking. The thing is: Halliburton released it months ago, according to a CNNMoney report.

So why wasn’t there more mainstream buzz about this? Seems the only thing the media’s picked up on is the constitution of the new cocktail: it’s apparently made of products from the food industry. Edible? Not really. (Although a Halliburton exec reportedly drank some as a PR stunt.) However, it does use “acids and enzymes involved in food production, reportedly making it safer.

One thing seems clear, and it speaks to what Browning said in September: cleaner, more efficient and more effective innovations begin and end with the industry itself. This mantra spans across other industries as well (oil and steel come to mind), and there are examples to support it.

Verenium, for example, is a Calif.-based enzyme producer that has entered the fracking market by producing a replacement for hydrochloric acid, which in itself “is normally used to eat away at guar, a foam the industry uses that initially helps pry the rock open, according to CNNMoney.

On the wastewater front, another company called Fountain Quail from Canada has come up with several mobile, wastewater-purifying solutions, including the ROVER system. Fountain Quail claims that the outcome of these types of processes is water “that meets federal drinking standards, and a solid waste product that can be transported to a proper landfill.

Being environmentally efficient, ultimately, takes time. Are the products and solutions we see above the final answer? No. Are the as safe as possible? Likely not. But that doesn’t mean private sector innovators such as Halliburton aren’t moving as quickly as they can to fill the niches and get solutions to market. They do so because, quite frankly, it’s in the company’s best interest. If the market as a whole begins demanding certain standards, there will be firms hungry to fill the need.

–Taras Berezowsky

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