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Waterless Fracking Method Could Sidestep NY Gas Drilling Ban

Amid skepticism from engineers and environmentalists, landowners and drilling company bet on LPG fracking, which uses propane instead of water.

Apr 16, 2012
(Page 3 of 3 )
Map of primary aquifers and Marcellus Shale extent in NY

Last year, Chevron, one of the world's largest oil and gas companies, used LPG to frack several natural gas wells in the Piceance Basin, home to several lucrative coal, oil and natural gas deposits in northwestern Colorado. The technology "significantly increases production while minimizing water usage," the company said in its annual report, which did not mention GasFrac by name.

GasFrac has also fracked several oil wells in Colorado's Niobrara Formation. Although GasFrac hasn't released the name of its customer, some investors have speculated that it is Fort Worth-based Quicksilver Resources.

The data that skeptics and investors alike are probably most eager to see is from a well that GasFrac fracked in north central Pennsylvania for Dallas-based Exco Resources. It could give a glimpse of how effective LPG fracking might be in Tioga County, which is also part of the Marcellus.

Meanwhile, GasFrac continues to expand its operation.

When InsideClimate News interviewed Letz last fall, he said GasFrac had a backlog of work and just two crews to handle it. Today the company has six crews in Canada and three in the United States. Letz said it aims to add another crew by June.

Michael Mazar, a financial analyst who follows GasFrac for BMO Capital Markets, thinks long-term trend leans in GasFrac's favor.

"I think most investors and analysts believe there is a large niche and GasFrac will be profitable," Mazar said. "More importantly, customers who use [LPG] find the technology works in terms of improving production rates."

In the end, it will be LPG's profitability that matters most to investors, Mazar said. "The environmental benefits are secondary."

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