New method of fracking with CO2 particularly designed for Polish shale

Fracking diagram
Source: DollarPhotoClub

DIOX4SHELL, an innovative technology using CO2 for hydraulic fracturing, was among the winners of this year’s round of the annual Blue Gas Competition held in Poland.

The Blue Gas Competition is a joint undertaking of the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR) and the Industrial Development Agency (ARP S.A.), it is focused on supporting integrated large R&D projects, testing results in pilot scale and commercialization of innovative technologies in the area of shale gas extraction.

Applicants need to come up with an innovative technology related to shale gas extraction. The technologies have to be tested in real conditions; and need to be aimed at real-life implementation.

DIOX4SHELL has found favour with the jurors because it replaces water with CO2 in fracking operations but does it in a more innovative way than most other similar projects.

Polish state-owned giant PGNiG is the project leader and the research is being done by academics from WAT, AGH and PW (Military University of Technology, AGH University of Science and Technology, and Warsaw University of Technology). The designs have been patented under the title: “Development of guidelines for design of innovative technology of shale gas recovery with the use of liquid CO2 on the base of numerical and experimental research –DIOX4SHELL”.

After independent experts (five in each case, at least two of whom had to be from overseas) evaluated each of the qualified projects, DIOX4SHELL was awarded 92.5 points out of 100.

Dr Danuta Miedzinska, one of the leading researchers on the project, explained the uniqueness of the solution to the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita: “It differs immensely from the ones currently used by some companies. They use CO2 instead of water, so their fracking is simply pumping huge amounts of liquid, under high pressure, down towards the deposits, which causes fractures and through that a higher permeability of rocks, which leads to the extraction of gas. Unfortunately, with this method we also extract back the CO2.”

By comparison, DIOX4SHELL introduces “CO2 into the deposits as supercritical fluid – an incredibly cold liquid but under low pressure, with low viscosity and high mobility of molecules. This liquid, due to the temperature in the deposit (above 100 degrees Celsius) expands and causes fracturing. So we’re using a different physical process. We’re also planning to use this process not in one well but in several horizontal wells, which will increase its effectiveness.”

“Another phenomenon that works in our favour is the process of preferential adsorbtion of CO2 towards CH4 in the Polish shale. What it means is that normally most of the shale gas is adsorbed – or “attached” – to the porous surface of shale rock, but CO2 is able to “rip off” the methane particles and replace them – thus, we have a safe process of storing CO2 and increase, as much as by a factor of four the amount of extracted methane.”

Technologies like DIOX4SHELL may be crucial in unlocking the potential of Polish shale. So far the initial enthusiasm has waned when exploration companies found that the geology of Polish shales differs considerably from the American deposits. DIOX4SHELL is said to be particularly suited to the tricky Polish reserves and its creators hope that it may change the way shale gas is extracted not only in Poland, but also internationally.

Currently, the team of DIOX4SHELL researchers are working on solving construction problems so that the method is usable in real-life environments. The researchers believe that the technology could be widely available within the next two years.

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