US shale gas firms have tech to reduce pollution, quakes - panel

06 March 2012 03:04  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Shale-gas companies in the US should ensure that production is less harmful to the environment and triggers fewer earthquakes, speakers at a US energy conference said on Monday, adding that the industry already has the technology to do so.

Some producers are making several fractures in parts of shale that are unlikely to produce any natural gas, said Patrick Schorn, president of the reservoir production group of Schlumberger.

He was speaking during a panel discussion at CERAWeek on measures that can be taken to reduce the environmental impact and assure the safety of shale gas production.

If producers are able to target fractures in parts of shale that produce natural gas, they would be able to reduce their usage of water, he said.

In addition, producers are developing techniques that use significantly less water and proppant to reduce its impact on the environment, Schorn said.

For example, many producers are relying on saline or recycled water because they cannot find freshwater or do not want to deal with disposal expenses, said Mark Zoback, professor of geophysics at Stanford University, who was speaking at the panel.

Regarding earthquakes, Zoback said that none of the tremors that were caused by the injection of fracking fluids into shale has caused any extensive damage or harm.

However, the industry understands how earthquakes can be triggered and can take steps to avoid them, Zoback said.

Producers can measure seismic activity and make changes in production based on those measurements, he said.

"We know how to manage this problem," he said. "It just requires us to be a little more proactive at the beginning of the progress."

Some problems attributed to hydraulic fracturing are often caused by issues with well construction, Zoback said, calling for producers to take measures to prevent complications.

"It is very mundane," he said. "We know how to construct wells. We know how to monitor wells."

The advent of shale gas has provided the North American petrochemical industry with cheap energy and feedstock natural gas liquids (NGLs), which is a growing alternative to oil-based naphtha that is used in crackers.

CERAWeek lasts through Friday.

By: Al Greenwood
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