GasFrac is Promoting Fracking with Propane not Water. Is it Safe?

by Duane Nichols on May 31, 2012

In the debate over whether hydraulic fracturing should be allowed in New York State, the need for millions of gallons of water at each well is a major concern, according to Matt Richmond of Radio WSKG.  Now a Canadian company called GasFrac is trying to eliminate the large volume (2 to 8 million gallons) of water for every well being fracked by using propane instead of water.

Kyle Ward  of GasFrac says that, besides propane, there are only four ingredients in the company’s fracking fluid, all of which decompose naturally. Not only that, all of the propane comes back out of the well, whereas much of the water used in fracking stays underground.

Ward says the propane that comes back up out of the well can be easily separated. It’s then sold or reused.  “The propane fracturing would leave most of those naturally-occurring constituents down in the shale,” says Dave Yoxtheimer of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.

While Yoxtheimer says propane offers a solution for the challenge posed by wastewater treatment, he says it also creates new risks. “You have a large volume of an explosive substance that you’re transporting and then handling onsite,” Yoxtheimer says. In fact, a recent explosion at a Gasfrac site in Alberta led to a three-week shutdown in operations while the company reviewed its safety procedures.

The company has expanded anyway, fracturing more than 500 wells in 2011. That’s a nearly four-fold growth in just two years. This year the company completed its first wells in Ohio’s Utica Shale. Gasfrac’s Kyle Ward says the technology, which was first used in 2008, should also increase production by up to 30 percent over the life of a well. It’s too soon to say whether that’s true. Still, the company’s expansion after just a couple of years is a sign that the technology is attractive to companies.

But Nadia Steinzor of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project says regulators should take a close look at the use of propane, also known as LPG fracking, before it spreads.  “Every time there’s a new technology that could get more gas out of the ground, a lot of people get really excited,” says Steinzor. “But just because LPG is new and different and doesn’t use water, doesn’t make it safe.”

Steinzor’s group along with 14 other environmental organizations sent a letter to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in April.  The coalition is calling on the DEC to perform a separate environmental review of propane-based fracking before allowing it in the state.

A deal with a landowners’ group in New York’s Southern Tier that would have required drillers to use Gasfrac has been put on hold since first being reported in March.  An earlier report on propane fracking was presented here in

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Mark Smyth July 5, 2012 at 12:49 am

Ignorance is bliss. Propane is found in nature mixed with butane and methane mainly but there are many other ingredients that make up natural gases. What comes to your home or office is methane, not raw nat gas as mentioned above. NGL means natural gas liquid which is what propane and butane are. PROPANE has 18 times as much hydrogen in it as methane ( natural gas ) so that is why a car or truck running on propane can travel about 35 to 40 percent farther on LPG than on CNG. Is propane safe? Gasoline is much more dangerous as just one gallon is equivalent to 8 to 12 sticks of dynamite. Yup, You’ve been sitting on about 15 sticks of dynamite for years and yet the dumb protesters have been driving around the hood with a bomb on wheels for years. Propane is 105 octane which is why it runs so well in an engine. It leaves no carbon deposits in an engine which is why a propane fueled engine will last as long as a diesel engine. In Toronto it is selling as low as $1.74 a U.S, gallon or 47 cents a liter with a high price of 56 cents at the pump with all road taxes included. Gasoline and diesel cost 2.6 times as much at the pump at $1.23 per liter. It’s a no brained to use and the Feds in Canada give a $2,000 tax deduction for converting your car or truck but the USA gives a Fed deduction of $2,500 with trucks over 10,000 pounds gross weight get a $5,000 Fed tax deduction. Why would anyone spend $9,000 extra for a diesel engine to pay 2.6 times as much for the fuel?


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