By Tom Knox
Oil and gas companies want waterless fracking because it could work better than water fracking. Residents want waterless fracking because it saves millions of gallons of water and cuts down on transportation needed to truck used water away.
Add that to a failure of Ohio’s oil and gas companies to economically drill for oil in the northern and western part of the state’s Utica shale play, and Canadian company GasFrac Energy Services Inc. sees a golden opportunity, its president told me.
GasFrac has begun testing its first waterless fracking well in Tuscarawas County, as I reported last week.
“We think there’s a lot of work in Ohio and a lot of potential there,” said GasFrac president Jason Munro.
Munro couldn’t confirm that Houston-based EnerVest subsidiary EV Energy Partners LP (NASDAQ:EVEP) is the company working with the GasFrac on the test oil well, but its executives have made public comments alluding to the partnership. It’s one of the worst-keep secrets in the industry, one which EV executive chairman John Walker said could be its most valuable asset in the Utica.
GasFrac’s technique uses gelled propane instead of water in hydraulic fracturing. Munro said the technique could work in natural gas formations, but oil is the target. Drillers have had a hard time economically drilling for oil in Ohio; the process isn’t the same for extracting natural gas.
“The oil window in Utica appears to be water sensitive,” Munro said.
Fracking creates cracks in the shale formation to make it easier to bring oil out.
In the Utica oil window, shale captures and retains water when it’s used during fracking. It swells the formation, causing a blockage for the water and oil.
Propane is a gas and can come through those cracks easier, allowing the oil to flow more easily toward the surface.
“When you frack with water, you might get 8 (percent) to 40 percent of the water back,” Munro said. “With us, when fracking with hydrocarbon, you get 70 (percent) to 100 percent of the hydrocarbon back,” so it can be reused.
Concerns about water use will only grow. A Deloitte report on the topic found that Americans pay more for water than any other utility, and “shortages stemming from increased water competition and droughts” in many areas.
Researcher IHS Inc. found up to 10 percent of total capital expenditures can be attributable to a single shale well.
GasFrac has shaken up its management team – Munro joined the company this year – and is exploring selling or merging part or all of the Calgary, Alberta, company.
It lost $61 million (Canadian) in the first nine months of its latest fiscal year on sales of $31 million (Canadian).
The company has other businesses than waterless fracking, but a lot is riding on the test well. If the Ohio well is successful, “we’re talking different options than were presented before,” he said.
If it doesn’t do well?
“I certainly think the opportunity is a big one,” Munro said, but the company has a lot of options:“In my view, this won’t be our swan song if the well doesn’t work out.”
Editor’s note: Munro’s comment in an earlier version of this story confused some readers, so we paraphrased it for clarity.
Munro said the company is “cautiously optimistic” about the test well and is in talks with other area companies for potential partnerships. It should have some preliminary results on the well soon.
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Article Source: Knox, T. (2014). GasFrac’s president sees golden opportunity in waterless fracking in Ohio. Bizjournals.com. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/blog/2014/11/gasfrac-s-president-sees-golden-opportunity-in.html