There has been an explosion of frack water treatment companies, especially in the Marcellus, where geography and water disposal challenges favor small-scale solutions. Companies like WaterTectonics*, NeoHydro*, Produced Water Solutions*, Latitude*, Watervap*, and Altela* have pinned their hopes on a robust fracking market despite soft gas prices and strong regulations that fall just short of banning the practice outright. So far, the market has developed well regionally, with notable bans in New York State and in France. But we’ve expected a shakeout in the number of companies in the space, and the technologies applied to it.
Enter GasFrac, a startup that uses hydrocarbons like propane instead of water to fracture the rock. Already deployed at one site in the Marcellus, the company’s technology promises performance superior to water fracking, as well as capabilities that would be impossible using water – namely, reduced fluid volumes and near-complete recovery of used fluid.
Reducing the volume of water used in fracking won’t shut down demand for technologies that treat and dispose of produced water. GasFrac may not even be competitive in regions that generate an excess of produced water for disposal. But it has the potential to replace water fracking in dry climates, where water supply is problematic. That includes sites in the Middle East and China. Plus, if accepted by regulators as a more environmentally friendly way to frack, it could carve major inroads into regions where water is the current method of choice. Clients considering investing in this space should watch GasFrac’s progress carefully.
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