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Release Gas, Trap CO2

A new promising method of forcing gas from shale rock is underway by a team of Polish scientists. It will use supercooled CO2 that will expand in the hot conditions of shale rock deposits to release natural gas, itself remaining locked underground. Lab work has been done to good results and the method is set to hit the well pads in two years.


A PROTOTYPE method of fracturing gas-bearing shale rock with liquid CO2 rather than a mix of water, sand or ceramic proppant and chemicals, has just won PLN 50 million (€11.8 million) financing that could propel it forward to commercial use. The financing comes from a research and development program known as Blue Gas, aimed at the shale gas industry. Despite a recent slowdown in the pace of exploration in Poland, the program keeps going in the hope of supplying best technologies to fit Polish geological conditions.

Blue Gas is a joint undertaking of the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR) and the Indus-trial Development Agency (ARP). Its focus is on supporting integrated large R&D projects, testing the results on pilot schemes and commercialization of innovative technologies in the area of shale gas extraction. The applications it uses are from research-industrial consortia and need to meet certain criteria. Primarily, they have to design innovative technology related to shale gas extraction, which has to be tested in real conditions. The project leader has to be an entrepreneur interested in implementation of the technology on an actual well pad or along shale gas’s exploration and production chain.


Diox4Shell is a technology of using liquid CO2 instead of water and chemicals for hydraulic fracturing. It has been developed beween the Polish oil and gas company PGNiG as project leader, academics from the Military University of Technology (WAT), AGH University of Science and Technology and Warsaw University of Technology who did the research and testing. The team is working under the direction of professor Tadeusz Niezgoda.

“[The technology] involves introducing CO2 into the deposits as a supercritical fluid, or an incredibly cold liquid under low pressure, with low viscosity and high mobility of molecules,” said WAT’s Danuta Miedzińska, one of the leading researchers on the project. “This liquid, due to the temperature in the deposit - above 100 degrees Celsius - expands and causes fracturing,” Ms. Miedzińska said.

“The method is environmentally safe, does not require the use of water and added chemicals, and carries no risk of causing local earthquakes,” Ms. Miedzińska also said. Miedzińska adds that the proposed use of CO2 as supercritical fluid differs from a known technology using CO2 to fracture shale rock. In a method in use for years now, companies use CO2 instead of water, so their fracking is simply pumping huge amounts of the gas, under high pressure, down towards the deposits, which causes fractures and increases the permeability of the rock, which leads to the extraction of gas.

Unfortunately, as Ms. Miedzińska Points out, the drawback is that CO2 goes back, adding to the technology’s carbon footprint.

Diox4Shell works with the quirks of the Polish shale rock, rather than against them, the researcher says, and it effectively traps CO2 in rock.

„We’re using a different physical process. What works in our favor is the process of preferential adsorption CO2 towards CH4 in 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 an increase, by as much as by a factor of 4, the amount of ex-tracted methane,” Ms. Miedzińska said.


The Diox4Shell researchers plan to resolve construction problems so that the method would be available to apply in field conditions as soon as possible. This, Ms. Miedzińska believes will take about two years.

“Our work will last two years, starting in December 2014, and its purpose is to design a whole technological process of extracting gas based on our method. It involves a wide variety of work, especially in the lab, such as lowering the costs and the risk of research,” Ms. Miedzińska said. “We plan to resolve construction problems to ensure that this technology is possible to use in real conditions,” she added. The first public presentation of the new method to a wide audience of industry professionals will take place in March 2015, during the Central and Eastern Europe Shale Gas and Oil Summit in Warsaw.


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