In an attempt to make fracking more palatable to the growing opposition and to avoid as much regulation as possible, a side industry is developing that’s offering technologies that make the process cleaner.
Technologies range from cleaner ways to run fracking equipment to recycling wastewater to developing cleaner fracking chemicals.
Currently, noisy, dirty diesel engines provide the energy at most fracking operations. Halliburton, the leading company that services fracking operations, is experimenting with a machine they’ve developed, SandCastle, that’s already deployed at dozens of fracking sites. It relies on gravity and gets electricity from solar.
"You would’ve never thought we’d give a flip about this," Ron Hyden of Halliburton told Bloomberg Businessweek. "We’re big into it."
"Stung by environmental criticism, the petroleum industry is trying to clean up its operations," says Bloomberg Businessweek. "Halliburton and the other three largest oil-field service providers spent $2.04 billion on research and development in 2011, up 32% from two years earlier. Some of that went to finding ways to make fracking more eco-friendly."
It also turns out that finding cleaner ways of operating is good for business.
An $18 billion dollar business has already sprung up to clean up the huge amounts of toxic wastewater that’s a byproduct of fracking (7.5 million gallons of water per well), as well as conventional oil wells, PacWest Consulting Partners told Bloomberg Businessweek.
This year, the EPA issued rules to begin regulating air pollution from fracking operations under the Clean Air Act.
Therefore research is focused on reducing air pollution, and because future regulation will target the toxic chemicals used, there’s also a push to recycle wastewater as well as clean it up.
General Electric and Chesapeake Energy are among the major companies vying for a piece of the wastewater cleanup and recycling market, along with start-ups like Ecosphere Technologies (OTCBB: ESPH).
For example, GE’s Mobile Evaporator – about the size a semi-truck – can be towed from well to well, cleaning about 50 gallons of water per minute by boiling it. Once the water is cleaned it can be reused or fed into waterways.
Chesapeake Energy’s Green Frac purportedly eliminates 25% of the additives used in fracking fluids.
Halliburton’s CleanStim is a fracking fluid that gets the acids needed by using enzymes produced from fruit and vegetable compounds.
What about using less water in the first place? This summer, farmers were at odds with the fracking industry because of the drought. Learn more: