Slickwater Fracking ? Impact Upon the Environment


By: Akshat Singh -- Senior Research Analyst

27 March, 2014

Slickwater Fracking ? Impact Upon the Environment

With increase in the prices of crude oil and demand for the energy across the world, especially from Asia-Pacific region, it was necessary for the producers of hydrocarbons to tap unconventional sources of energy. To extract hydrocarbons from such resources, technologies such as hydraulic fracking have been extremely useful and popular in North America. This process makes use of a hydraulic fluid to fracture the rock formations and extract the hydrocarbons from them. This hydraulic fluid is a mixture of water, sand, chemicals, gelling agents such as guar gum et al. With technology getting advanced and the prices of guar gum soaring to a record high (500% increase was noted), producers have now started switching to another type of fracking known as slickwater fracking which makes use of water and chemicals to make the process more economical and efficient (not requiring the use of the gelling agents). Although, this process has many advantages like high pumping rate leading to better recovery of the hydrocarbons, it has some major disadvantages like excessive usage of the fresh water, threat of contaminating the ground water used for the drinking purpose, the treatment of the toxic water, et al. With hydraulic fracking being replicated in other parts of the world such as China, Russia, etc., it is important to deal with some of the major issues related to such process before any major mishap takes place. Introduction ? Slickwater fracking is a technology used to extract oil and natural gas which lies inside the shale rock formations beneath the earth surface. It is also known as the High Volume Hydraulic Fracking (HVHF), which makes use of a mix of different chemicals, thereby, reducing the need of gelling agents and friction reducers to be mixed in the hydraulic fluid used for the fracking purpose. Slickwater fracking along with horizontal drilling can tap several unconventional resources which are difficult to explore otherwise. It is a combination of proppants and water based fluids having low viscosity and involves adding of chemicals to the water in order to increase the flow. It has a very high pumping rate and can be pumped at a rate of 100 bbl. /min whereas the speed of pumping without the use of slick water is generally not more than 60 bbl. /min. It is used for high pressure, deep shales, whereas, the fracturing fluids which makes use of nitrogen foam are used for shallow shales with low reservoir pressure.


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