Collaborative research: improving the water cycle in hydraulic fracturing
♪♪♪♪♪ Collaborative Research and Development is a program from NSERC, uh, that encourages Canadian companies to work with University partners — academic groups, research groups — to solve applied problems. We started with a list of at least 50 potential research projects; they had quite a few intersting problems that we could have looked at, and we eventually narrowed that list down to just a few that we’re actually focusing on, now. The biggest part of the project is looking at the inorganic chemistry and the organic chemistry, and the toxicity of what are called Hydraulic Fracturing Flowback and Produced Waters. The major goal is, in one sentence, “improve the water cycle in Hydraulic Fracturing”, so to mitigate water use, reduce costs, therefore, and reduce the environmental footprint of the operations. Modern Hydraulic Fracturing, then, is the combination of two older technologies, first horizontal drilling, where we drill horizontally into a target formation, combined with Hydrolic Fracaturing.
So in Hydrolic Fracturing, you typically take a fluid, water, in most cases, uh, inject it down. It has chemicals with it to improve the performance of the well, and we fracture the rocks, hold open those fractures with what are called pop-ins, uh, so ceramic beads, or very pure sand, and that allows for the gas to flow freely from the formation back to the surface.
It’s important for NSERC to fund programs like this through their CRD Program, because it’s answering relevant applied problems today, in Canada.
Encana’s a good partner to work with on the CRD because they have a lot of foresight, I would say, so they’re very interested in actually looking at scientific research, and applying that to their process to improve both the environmental performance of their operations, as well as, of course, cost.
This project is really critical to the responsible development of the energy resources in our province.
We hope that, by improving that understanding, it can help us to inform, uh, best management practices and operational practices that will help not only Encana, but the industry as a whole.
The University of Alberta is one of the best places in Canada, North America and the world. The infrastructure, the expertise, uh, research, I think, is unparalleled, um, the collaborative environment here, not only within the Faculty of Science, but across faculties, is incredible, and how far we’ve gotten in the first year of this project is a testament to how good of a work environment this is, and I think how far we will be able to go in the remaining 4 years of this project. ♪♪♪♪♪