Shale gas can be released from the ground using a mixture of propane gas and sand instead of water

France considers propane stimulation instead of fracking

Non-flammable propane stimulation could be a viable alternative to hydraulic fracturing, according to a report released by the French parliament.

The Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices of the Parliament of France has compiled a comprehensive report detailing the state of development of various techniques that could be employed as a possible alternative to fracking.

Named "Alternative techniques to hydraulic fracturing for the exploration and exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons", the report concluded that some of those alternative techniques, such as the non- flammable propane stimulation, are already sufficiently developed to be seriously considered.

The technology, developed by Houston-headquartered company ecorpStim, uses propane – a component of natural gas – to release gas or oil stored in shale formations. The currently more known fracking uses water, which is pumped into the ground under pressure to release the resources. The water-intensity is one of the most criticised aspects of the controversial oil extraction technology.

During the propane stimulation procedure, also known as water-less fracking, propane is mixed with sand and injected into the ground where it opens gaps enabling the gas to escape.

The proponents of the technology say it doesn’t require any harmful chemicals to be used that would put the health of workers or the environment at risk. The injected propane can later be recovered and used again.

The French report has further highlighted a modification of the technique that uses non-flammable liquid propane, which eliminates risks of ignition or explosion associated the regular propane during storage, transport or the actual stimulation.

Earlier this month, Time magazine included propane stimulation into its list of 25 best inventions of 2013, stating the technology has a ‘world-changing’ potential.

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