Analytical Instrumentation

Is Fracking the Way Forward? An Interview with Chris Faulkner 

Apr 25 2014 Read 5428 Times

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Earlier this year, Petro Industry News editor Rachael Simpson had the chance to attend a special screening of the independent documentary Fracknation, directed by Phelim McAleer, at the House of Lords, UK. Following the screening Rachael then interviewed Chris Faulkner, CEO of the Breitling Energy Corporation, a man known internationally as the ‘Frack Master’ due to his outspoken advocacy of shale gas extraction and in depth-knowledge of the process. 

For all those that haven’t seen Fracknation, or don’t know much about the subject of fracking, can you explain what scientific misunderstandings cause the most opposition to the process?

The biggest one is groundwater contamination. I’m sure everyone has seen the image from the movie Gasland of people lighting their water on fire. That image appears all over the world and people think that fracking has caused it. The reality is that yes, the water from the faucet was set on fire and it wasn’t staged - but neither was it due to fracking. It was due to biogenic or naturally occurring methane in the water in that area. 
I went to Balcombe in May (a drilling site in Sussex, UK) and every person I spoke to there said they were most concerned about fracking destroying the land; that sites will be a toxic wasteland when the fracking is finished and that they won’t be able to drink the water any more. Those are the biggest fears. And rightfully so; I live in the Barnett Shale (a geological formation located in the Fort Worth Basin, Texas USA) and there are wells all around my house and underneath my house, and I drink the water every day. I can understand that if people are told they can’t drink their tap water anymore that it’s a huge issue. I think that is the biggest fear around the world.

You’ve previously stated that natural gas emits a fraction of the carbon dioxide, nitrogen and sulphur oxides of coal - what technology or instrumentation do you use to support this statement?

The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has done studies using vapour recovery units, in which they tested the escaped methane and in these studies it was shown that there were between 40-42% less greenhouse gas emissions than those seen with coal, so I don’t think anyone can dispute those facts. The coal industry may! In the United States, for example, natural gas production has gone up by 40% - at the same time the methane production had gone down by 20%. Fracking is much cleaner than coal. I think this is why there is this huge battle between gas and oil/coal in the US. Number one, natural gas is cheaper than oil and coal in the US, which obviously creates a big market, but two; using natural gas instead of coal is actually helping the environment.

Are you proactive in monitoring emissions and the environment to reassure local communities and regulatory bodies that the environmental impact is minimal?

Since 2012 every one of our completions have been Green Completions, using Green Completion technology. We use VRU’s (Vapour Recovery Units) to capture methane, and use this natural gas to power our equipment instead of using electricity. We are proactive in that regard. There is actually no requirement in the United States to carry out Green Completions, or even use VRU’s, but as a company we changed all of our completions to green ones in 2012. 

What instrumentation and technologies do you use to monitor emissions and groundwater?

As part our community outreach effort we take water samples before and after we drill, from within a half-mile to mile radius of the well, and we use these “before and after” water samples to show that the water quality hasn’t changed during the drilling process. Again, it’s an option, not a requirement, but in the US there is a big grassroots movement to try and get communities behind what we are doing. Therefore, it’s a very useful tool for us to have that data, and it doesn’t come at huge cost. We are looking at technology that uses a unique tag or identifier in the fracking fluid, so that if that fluid escapes from the well or into the water table the unique identifier will show where it came from. This technology is not yet widely used, it’s still being tested in the US, but it will show if the contamination is there or not, and if it is there then it will show where it originated from.

How much water is used in the fracking process?

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