Research Identifies Method to Optimize Fracking


A study by the University of Leicester has identified a new method to optimize fracking, improving gas yields and reducing environmental impacts.

A team from the University of Leicester and the British Geological Survey have looked into what else comes out of fractured Bowland shale other than methane.

SEE ALSO: Study Suggests Using Industrial Waste for Fracking

The organic content of shale has become of commercial interest as a source of hydrocarbons, owing to the development of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). While the main focus is on the extraction of methane, shale also contains significant amounts of Non-Methane Hydrocarbons (NMHC).

Samples from the Bowland-Hodder formation (Lancashire, England) were analyzed under different conditions of temperature, fracking and humidity using mass spectrometry to follow the dynamic process of gas release upon fracturing of the shale. A wide range of NMHC was observed.

The research has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (see footnote).

Professor Paul Monks, from the University of Leicester’s Department of Chemistry said: “Our results indicate that higher energy inputs (i.e. temperatures) significantly increase the amount of NMHC released from shale, while humidity tends to suppress it; additionally, a large fraction of the gas is released within the first hour after the shale has been fractured. These findings suggest that other hydrocarbons of commercial interest may be extracted from shale and open the possibility to optimize the ‘fracking’ process, improving gas yields and reducing environmental impacts.”

Professor Mike Stephenson, Director of Science and Technology at the British Geological Survey said: “These results show that it might be possible to influence the outcome of fracking to improve the amount of gas we get and the kind of gas. Gases like ethane are useful in industrial manufacturing, beyond their use for energy.”

[notification type=”help”]Sommariva, R., Blake, R., Cuss, R., Cordell, R., Harrington, J., White, I., & Monks, P. (2014). Observations of the Release of Non-methane Hydrocarbons from Fractured Shale Environmental Science & Technology, 48 (15), 8891-8896 DOI: 10.1021/es502508w[/notification]
  • K Roberts

    Who was this that posted this; a gas industry minion!? We don’t WANT to optimize fracking; we want to shut it down! There is no good from fracking- if it continues it will literally be the death of us all. How can anyone work inthis industry; are there really that many stupid and/ or uncaring people in this world…?

  • Taxpayer1301

    Oh, please! How will this address the uncompensated increases in local tax bases, the uncompensated demands on local infrastructure and public services, the increase in crime, the decline in residential property values, the clean-up that big oil/gas always avoids, and the bust which follows all this beefing up of local support?

  • Pat Goldsmith

    I can’t think of anything worse than the optimization of fracking. If technologists succeed in making fracking more efficient and less harmful, we will almost certainly not transition off fossil fuels quickly enough to avoid a greater than two degree rise in average global temperature. To be clear, while we don’t know what harms we will suffer from a two degree temperature rise, we know with great certainty that a four plus degree rise, which is where we’re heading, will lead to the end of life on this planet. But I don’t believe any technical efficiencies can reduce the structural harms of fracking. For example, there is the issue of radioactive waste. Fracking waste is often highly radioactive. Even though we haven’t solved the problem of radioactive waste with nuclear energy, at least it is highly regulated. Thanks to the Halliburton Loophole, fracking waste enjoys the legal fiction that it is not toxic and is not constrained by the same legal restrictions placed on all other radioactive waste. And what about water? In our climate changed world, water should be the priority. It is literally invaluable. Fracking is the embodiment of the foolish prioritization of fossil fuel and the money it represents over all other survival considerations.