The U.S. shale boom saga continues, and with it the push for legalized fracking in states like New York, fighting against the accusations of danger and environmental destruction.
If you've been following fracking for any length of time, you've undoubtedly heard both sides of the story:
It's an economic boom for our country, creating high-paying jobs and a valuable resource that could be exported, perhaps one day leading us to independence from OPEC.
It's a dangerous, destructive process that will destroy our land and poison our drinking water – Big Oil manipulating American citizens.
Of course, both sides resonate. The drilling process has proved profitable, and it's starting to create new markets for the resource – like natural gas vehicles.
But it hasn't yet been determined whether or not the chemicals injected into the wells can seep into drinking water. Tests that have been performed so far are conflicting; different studies keep yielding different answers.
It's questions like this that are preventing states like New York from lifting bans on fracking and drilling in these profitable deposits.
So some companies have changed their tactics.
Instead of focusing on fighting opposition and attempting to reach an end where one side will never be happy, Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) is revamping its hydraulic fracturing formula.
Chesapeake's new formula will be 100 percent “green”. Rather than incorporating harmful chemicals and running the risk of proving the environmentalists correct, Chesapeake will test a formula that uses only environmentally benign ingredients.
The company's manager of environmental and regulatory affairs, Jody C. Jones, announced this new development on Tuesday.
“It's not quite there yet,” Jones said at the Utica Shale Development & Growth Forum sponsored by IQPC Ltd. “The main concern with testing something like this is you just spent $4 to $6 million to drill a well and taking an untested frack system and shooting it down a well could ruin a reservoir and you'd be throwing away all that money.”
But if it is successful, it would be a huge win for the industry. This sort of technology would have the potential to rapidly move forward fracking operations in areas where drilling opposition is at its highest.
Jones also highlighted the increased safety it would offer for workers, who are exposed to the fracking chemicals on a regular basis. And any spills that might occur would be completely safe for the land and water surrounding it.
But Chesapeake isn't the first company to move into the greener side of fracking. Already, Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) released a product called “CleanStim.”
CleanStim prevents the growth of thick, slimy bacteria that can form and stop oil and gas from flowing easily in wells. And it uses entirely food-safe materials to do this.
It's other product, “CleanWave,” is an electrical charge that separates water from waste in fracking fluids. It's used in conjunction with an ultraviolet light that destroys bacteria.
And Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) is fighting the argument that fracking is an enormous waste of water, using millions of gallons per well. It has a product called “VaporFrac,” which is a nitrogen-based foam that can be used in place of almost all fracking water.
These products aren't yet widely known. But it shows that the oil and gas companies are willing to adjust their tactics to ensure they can continue their operations.
And once the companies successfully test and use the products themselves, they will likely take off to further revolutionize fracking.
Fracking is the present and the future for domestic oil and gas production. And the opposition will have a tough time arguing against the oil companies that are taking these revolutionary safety initiatives.
Energy & Capital's modern energy guru, Brianna digs deep into the industry with accurate and insightful updates into the biggest energy companies and events. She stays up to date with the latest market moves and industry finds, bringing readers a unique view of current energy trends. For more on Brianna, see her editor's page.