Fracking has always been a highly contentious issue. The oil and gas industry champions the process, defending it as key to the ongoing shale boom pervading North America, while environmentalists and clean-energy groups oppose it fiercely, citing the risks of potential pollution and groundwater contamination.
Now, the industry is trying another tack, developing non-toxic fluids for use during fracking.
CleanStim, a product engineered by Houston, Texas’s Halliburton Inc. (NYSE: HAL), relies on ingredients commonly used in the food industry. It's just one of several such non-toxic fracking fluids.
ABC News reports:
"Halliburton is in the business to provide solutions to our customers," said production manager Nicholas Gardiner. "Those solutions have to include ways to reduce the safety or environmental concerns that the public might have."
Environmentalists are still concerned about the enormous quantities of natural, but highly salty, wastewater and air pollution that remain part of fracking.
What’s encouraging, however, is that so far, one of the most widely-touted downsides of fracking—contamination of underwater drinking water aquifers—has not come to pass with Halliburton's product.
One major obstacle to widespread adoption of CleanStim and similar products is that shale rock varies widely by geography, meaning one fluid does not, and cannot, serve in all fracking operations.
But it’s a good start, and more such products could emerge in the near future.