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Freeze the frack

January 14, 2010
With the nation's environmental attention focused for the moment on hydraulic fracturing, one Canadian company claims it has a solution.

Ice.

Darrell Kosakewich, who founded Triple D Technologies, says water frozen underground expands by nine percent, resulting in powere exerted on surrounding rock three time stronger than hydraulic fracturing. Kosakewich also says the process creates better fractures in shale and the cracks run farther, similar to a crack in a car windshield.

From the Calgary Herald:

"This process should work beautifully in the shales, which fracture differently than coal. The ice acts in all directions, so the freezing creates radial fracking -- and the magical thing called vertical fracs, which stay open after the water is removed," removing the need for sand or other materials to prop open the cracks, Kosakewich said.

Repeating the freeze-thaw cycles over many hours creates "jacking," with the cracks running farther and farther -- much like a crack in a car windshield. And the same methods could be used in the oilsands, for cracking layers of shale that separate bitumen deposits.

"This makes heating the reservoir more efficient, and could help oil production from SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage) projects," Kosakewich said.

Another plan, which will be tried in a mature oilfield in the Pembina reservoir, will be to rework the depleted areas, with the help of PetroJet, a Calgary company that uses revolutionary fluid-cutting technology to auger through installed well casings and create new horizontal bore holes.

"They can go 50 metres out from the existing vertical bore in four directions, and we can frac in all these directions. Even if we can recover only three to five per cent more oil from these fields, that represents an incredible reserve of light, sweet oil from existing fields, and with all the infrastructure in place," Kosakewich said.

"This technology is a game-changer, and allows the small and medium-sized firms a chance to compete with the big firms, which are publicly traded and can raise a lot of money."

Kosakewich teamed up with Pace Industrial four years ago to design and test down-hole refrigeration technology. Technicoil, a coil drilling service firm, provides the method of delivering the refrigerant -- in this case liquid carbon dioxide -- down the bore hole.

"We simply pull out the (pipe) string and install our own, a concentric coil like a car's power aerial," he said. "This all works like your home freezer."

The liquid CO2, which flows under pressure at minus 55 C, is pumped down a small inner pipe. The fluid flows to fill the space between it and the almost three-inch outer tube. Water is pumped down to fill the space between the pipe and the eight-inch bore hole, and the water is slowly frozen -- expanding and cracking the surrounding rock.

High pressures inside the pipe containing the refrigerant protect it from damage.

Kosakewich said his frac method simply requires a truck of liquid CO2, and coil and pumping equipment. Commercial fracking today typically requires powerful and expensive equipment, and dozens of truckloads of water.

"None of this technology is new. But the concept is new, and sure to upset the way business is done in the oilpatch."
 
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