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by Duane Nichols
In the debate over whether hydraulic fracturing should be allowed in New York State, the need for millions of gallons of water at each well is a major concern, according to Matt Richmond of Radio WSKG. Now a Canadian company called GasFrac is trying to eliminate the large volume (2 to 8 million gallons) of water for every well being fracked by using propane instead of water.
Kyle Ward of GasFrac says that, besides propane, there are only four ingredients in the company’s fracking fluid, all of which decompose naturally. Not only that, all of the propane comes back out of the well, whereas much of the water used in fracking stays underground.
Ward says the propane that comes back up out of the well can be easily separated. It’s then sold or reused. “The propane fracturing would leave most of those naturally-occurring constituents down in the shale,” says Dave Yoxtheimer of Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.
While Yoxtheimer says propane offers a solution for the challenge posed by wastewater treatment, he says it also creates new risks. “You have a large volume of an explosive substance that you’re transporting and then handling onsite,” Yoxtheimer says. In fact, a recent explosion at a Gasfrac site in Alberta led to a three-week shutdown in operations while the company reviewed its safety procedures.
The company has expanded anyway, fracturing more than 500 wells in 2011. That’s a nearly four-fold growth in just two years. This year the company completed its first wells in Ohio’s Utica Shale. Gasfrac’s Kyle Ward says the technology, which was first used in 2008, should also increase production by up to 30 percent over the life of a well. It’s too soon to say whether that’s true. Still, the company’s expansion after just a couple of years is a sign that the technology is attractive to companies.
But Nadia Steinzor of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project says regulators should take a close look at the use of propane, also known as LPG fracking, before it spreads. “Every time there’s a new technology that could get more gas out of the ground, a lot of people get really excited,” says Steinzor. “But just because LPG is new and different and doesn’t use water, doesn’t make it safe.”
Steinzor’s group along with 14 other environmental organizations sent a letter to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in April. The coalition is calling on the DEC to perform a separate environmental review of propane-based fracking before allowing it in the state.
A deal with a landowners’ group in New York’s Southern Tier that would have required drillers to use Gasfrac has been put on hold since first being reported in March.
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Native Americans are disproportionately without access to clean water, according to a new report, "Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan," to be released this afternoon, which shows that more than two million Americans do not have access to access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.
By Nanticha Ocharoenchai
In the Czech Republic, horses have become the knights in shining armor. A study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Podyjí National Park could help boost the numbers of several threatened butterfly species.
By Bailey Hopp
If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.
By Whitney E. Akers
- "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.
- Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.
- We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.
Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.