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Chesapeake Testing ‘Green’ Fracking Fluids in Shale Wells

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Chesapeake Energy Corp., the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, is testing hydraulic-fracturing fluids composed solely of environmentally-benign components in wells.

Chesapeake plans to develop a 100 percent green mixture of fluids used to fracture gas and oil formations underground, Jody C. Jones, the company’s manager of environmental and regulatory affairs, said today during a gathering of energy-industry executives in Columbus, Ohio.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves using high-pressure jets of water, sand and chemicals to smash fissures into rocks so gas and oil may flow. Current fluid formulations often include hazardous components such as hydrochloric acid or diesel fuel and environmentalists say the practice poses a threat to water supplies. Chesapeake, based in Oklahoma City, is testing various green recipes in several shale formations that Jones declined to identify.

“It’s not quite there yet,” Jones said at the Utica Shale Development & Growth Forum sponsored by IQPC Ltd. “The main concern with testing something like this is you just spent $4 to $6 million to drill a well and taking an untested frack system and shooting it down a well could ruin a reservoir and you’d be throwing away all that money.”

Chesapeake is experimenting with green fracking fluids to minimize threats from surface spills near lakes, creeks and rivers that abut drilling sites, Jones said. Such formulations also would reduce workers’ exposure to potentially harmful substances, he said.

Bacteria Slime

Some of the world’s largest fracking-service providers have been working on ways to offer more environmentally friendly fluids. Halliburton Co., the world’s largest fracking company, now offers “CleanStim,” which uses food-safe ingredients to stifle the growth of subterranean bacteria that can form a thick slime and impede oil and gas flow.

Halliburton has also developed a process using ultraviolet light to kill bacteria in the fracking fluid, pairing the technology with a recycling process called “CleanWave” that uses an electrical charge to separate contaminants and clean the water.

Baker Hughes Inc., the world’s third-largest provider of fracking services, offers a fluid called “VaporFrac” that replaces almost all of the water used in fracking with nitrogen-based foam.

Chesapeake rose 1.3 percent to $19.54 at the close in New York.

Exxon Mobil Corp is the biggest U.S. gas producer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Carroll in Chicago at jcarroll8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net

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