Chris Faulkner | Breitling Oil and Gas
The oil and gas industry has been synonymous with big, dirty money for such a long time that
efforts to pursue greener practices, develop environmentally friendly technologies and institute
more sustainable processes are typically met with skepticism, at best.
But, like any smart business, oil and gas companies adapt to the regulatory, market and physical
environment in with they operate. Generally, it just makes good business sense.
Fracking chemicals: chicken or egg?
Take fracking chemicals, for example. Over the years, the number, amount and types of
chemicals used in fracking operations has changed dramatically. Like the chicken and the egg:
which came first – environmental pressure or operational efficiency?
Certainly there has been considerable pressure from environmental groups, resulting in tighter
regulations and skittish state and local governments. And certainly this causes oil and gas
companies to modify their chemical recipes to meet the demands of the various regulatory
However, reducing the number and amount of chemicals, along with changing the chemical
mix, is a budget- and production-driven decision that most operators would likely be making
regardless of regulatory pressures—if there’s a better, cheaper way to get the job done and gain a
competitive edge, any operator worth his salt will find and use it.
One example: Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar recently introduced a new “food-based” fracking
fluid with a publicity stunt, sipping it in front of an audience at an industry conference to
underscore its safety. With less fanfare, Breitling Oil and Gas is working on its own “green”
fracking fluid free of hazardous chemicals and drinking-water safe.
Water consumption: cause and effect
This summer’s extended drought highlighted an environmental and operational issue that has
already been a focus of concern for a long time: the volume of water required for standard
fracking projects. Environmentalists worry about water used in fracking from a couple of
standpoints, including the high volume of water used, as well as the proper storage and
disposal of flowback water. Oil and gas companies worry about those issues as well, though
understandably from more of a logistical and profit-centric standpoint.
While the perspectives may be different, the end result is the same – both sides want to reduce
the amount of water used and develop better ways to either use the waste byproduct or safely
dispose of it. For environmentalists, the goals are water conservation and protecting consumers
and the environment from pollutants; for oil and gas companies, the goals include environmental
protection and meeting regulatory standards to gain permits, but they can cut costs and increase
profits, as well, by cutting water use and repurposing and reducing wastes.
Reducing water use: American ingenuity to the rescue
Trucking fresh water into and wastewater away from drill sites is a logistical drain and expense
any operator would be happy to minimize, so, naturally, some companies are exploring ways to
drill with less water, while others are looking at ways to recycle and re-use fracking water.
One way to reduce water use is to employ a carbon dioxide foam process that requires only about
one-tenth of the water typically needed for fracking. A nitrogen process has also been used in
search of better fracking techniques that use less water.
Smart companies like Chesapeake, Halliburton Corp., Schlumberger Ltd., ThermoEnergy Corp,
ECOtality, Inc., Noble Energy Inc, and Encana, already recycle the wastewater produced by
fracking, developing their own systems or using the recycling services of companies such as
Eureka Resources in Williamsport, PA, Ecologix in Atlanta, GA, Omni Water Solutions in
Austin, TX, Rettew Flowback Inc. in Lancaster, PA, and Fountain Quail Water Management in
These new treatment techniques are actually becoming effective enough that drill operators
should be able to use and re-use recycled frack water over and over again in the near future,
easing water conservation concerns while trimming water transportation budgets.
Regardless of the company or the treatment method, recycling flowback water from fracking
operations produces residual waste materials that must be handled and disposed of carefully.
At present, most of the waste is stored in holding ponds and steel tanks, and then sent to landfills
or disposed of via deep well injection. Disposal is another bone of contention, and American
ingenuity has already been at work to solve the waste disposal dilemma. Where permitted by
state governments, some innovative companies have used the highly concentrated brine wastes
as de-icing agents. Fountain Quail developed a new technology, dubbed “Nomad,” that produces
distilled water from the briny water.
The resultant savings from reducing the amount of fresh water consumed in drill operations,
minimizing waste storage, and re-purposing waste for other uses makes water conservation
and recycling a lucrative proposition for energy companies while addressing the concerns of
environmentalists, regulators and transportation authorities charged with maintaining roads.
The fracking disconnect: dealing with cognitive dissonance
A lot of people dislike the oil and gas industry in general, and fracking in particular, but they
don’t really know why. They’ve heard the overblown claims, seen the dramatic footage of water
catching fire, and listened as their favorite celebrities rail against drilling practices, but they don’t
have all the facts.
Given the rich reserves that could free us from dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas
while buoying our economy for decades to come, public opinion should be on the side of the oil
and gas industry. Clearly, it’s not. The industry needs to do a better job educating consumers
about the great strides in drilling techniques that have created the current boom and sharing
information about the exciting advances in green technologies that are making fracking safer and
One place to start is by using reliable data and research from unbiased sources, and disclosing
known industry ties when using oil and gas industry-supported studies. Granted, we can’t always
know when a study is flawed or biased, but we do ourselves a grave disservice by relying on
data and findings from studies that suspicious media and consumers will only view as tainted
by association – when, in fact, we need only point out the inaccuracies, overblown claims, and
outright lies being perpetuated by anti-fracking groups. The important thing is to get the industry
voice out there to combat the misinformation, misstatements and mistruths.
We can’t say for sure what the future of the industry may hold, but the advances in every aspect
of oil and gas exploration and production suggest great things to come.
Original Article: http://www.oilgasmonitor.com/balancing-profits-environmental-concerns-its-good-business/