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The Warsaw Voice » Business » December 21, 2012
Business & Economy
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Shale Gas Extraction: No Water, Please
December 21, 2012   
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Dry fracking, a new method to extract natural gas from shale, eliminates the risk of groundwater contamination by chemicals which are used in the more popular hydraulic fracking technique.

The new method, developed in the United States, also prevents the waste of large amounts of water by replacing water with gas.

“The difference is that instead of water and chemicals, what gets pumped under the ground is gas in gel form, usually propane,” Dariusz Janus, the president of LST Capital, a venture capital fund that invests in inventive technology projects, including shale gas extraction, has told the Newseria Information Agency. “The gas remains in gel form until 3,000-4,000 meters underground where it expands to produce high pressure. The pressure cracks the rocks so the shale gas is released to the surface. Another benefit of this method is that the gas pumped into the site in gel form is subsequently recovered. It simply comes out along with the shale gas.”

The new method, also known as waterless fracking, is being used by global company Schlumberger and Canada-based Chimera. It has not been deployed in Poland so far. According to Janus, the method is more expensive, but also more effective than hydraulic fracking. Since the gas it employs is flammable, it involves certain hazards, but Janus adds that standard precautions are sufficient to keep the process safe.

Hydraulic fracking, the most common shale gas extraction method, is controversial due to the large amounts of water it consumes and the use of chemicals which could contaminate groundwater. This, according to opponents of shale gas extraction, is why the method should never be used in countries as densely populated as Poland.

Waterless fracking is one of several alternatives to hydraulic fracking. According to the Newseria agency, the Military University of Technology in Warsaw recently patented a different method, proposing to replace large amounts of water and chemicals with carbon dioxide.

In March last year, experts from the Polish Geological Institute (PIG) released the first Polish report on the estimated deposits of shale gas in Poland, both on land and under the continental shelf off the Baltic coast. The report says that Poland most likely has between 346 and 768 billion cubic meters of shale gas, but the maximum volume could be as high as 1.92 trillion cu m. But this data is likely to be updated as new information from drilling sites becomes available.

The demand for natural gas in Poland averages 14.5 billion cu m a year. Combined with earlier estimates of extractable natural gas in conventional deposits (145 billion cu m), the estimated amount of shale gas could cover Poland’s demand for natural gas over the next 35 to 65 years.
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