Chesapeake Energy Corp. has fractured a natural gas well in Portage County using about one-tenth of the water typical in the “fracking” process.
The company used a carbon dioxide foam, not high volumes of water, to create the fissures in the rock deep underground and free the natural gas at the site in Suffield Township.
“We have tried a foam fracture, using [carbon dioxide], on two wells in Ohio,” Keith Fuller, director of corporate development for Chesapeake, said in a four-sentence statement the company issued to the Beacon Journal when asked about the well.
The company had not publicized what it was doing in Suffield and did not disclose the other Ohio location. The fracking method only showed up in data on an online well registry.
“As with all of our new plays, we evaluate different technologies to stimulate the [gas] reservoir,” Fuller said.
The technique using carbon dioxide “has been used thousands of times across the country,” Fuller said.
The company did not indicate whether the foam fracking was successful in Suffield. Its assessment of the well is continuing.
Chesapeake’s use of carbon dioxide foam drew praise from an Ohio State University professor familiar with drilling operations.
“Generally, what Chesapeake is doing is a good thing,” said Jeff Daniels, a professor of earth science at OSU and co-director of its new Subsurface Energy Resource Center.
“This is just a natural,” he said. “Companies are always looking at new techniques to determine if they will work.”
Daniels speculated the company opted to use carbon dioxide foam because getting enough fresh water for drilling multiple wells can be problematic.
The Chesapeake well is located on the west side of Congress Lake Road, north of Pontius Street. Its vertical leg is 6,200 feet deep. A horizontal leg extends south toward Congress Lake and Hartville.
The fracturing took place in November and required only 471,534 gallons of water. That is far less water than is typically needed to frack today’s horizontal wells, according to water data available at www.fracfocus.org, a voluntary registry of more than 10,000 wells across the United States. Chesapeake posts data on the website.
The site also lists what chemical additives were used in fracking each well and water consumption.
At present, the site includes 12 Ohio wells, all but one of which Chesapeake has drilled.
There are nine Chesapeake wells in Carroll County southeast of Canton, and those wells averaged 5.8 million gallons of water in the fracking process. One Carroll County well required 10.5 million gallons of water.
The 471,534 gallons of water used at the Suffield well were mixed with carbon dioxide, sand and chemical additives to create a foam that was pumped down the well under pressure to crack the underground rock, data show.
According to a 2004 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, the method uses foam bubbles to transport and place the sand — used to keep the cracks open so the natural gas can escape — in fractures.
Using inert gases and foaming agents greatly reduce the volume of water needed, the report says. Gas bubbles in the foam fill voids that otherwise would be filled by fracturing liquids.
In foams, the gas portion typically consists of 65 to 80 percent carbon dioxide or nitrogen, the EPA report says.
Daniels said carbon dioxide has been used for decades in the pumping stages in gas and oil fields to enhance recovery of the underground products. Companies in Canada have been experimenting with using propane and even natural gas to frack wells, he said.
Nitrogen has been used to frack wells in Kentucky and Tennessee, said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Environmentalists want to see more information and more research on the foaming technique before they can determine if it is a better fracking method, Mall said.
“It could be safer. It could be better. But it doesn’t reduce all the risk,” she said.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.