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University experts study alternatives for shale gas extraction

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: July 29, 2014

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RESEARCHERS at Swansea University will contribute to a study examining alternatives to the use of water during the controversial fracking method of shale gas extraction.

Experts from the university's Energy Safety Research Institute ESRI will form part of an expanded group of scientists who will examine the safety and environmental impact of heptafluoropropane HFP — a non-toxic substance commonly found in fire extinguishers and medical inhalers.

HFP is being developed by US-based company ecorpStim as a 'stimulation fluid' for shale production and as an alternative to fresh water.

Professor Andrew Barron of Swansea University said: "Our consortium's work thus far supports the expansion of the study, and in our opinion at this juncture, there is little doubt that NFP stimulation can be safely delivered in the field with meticulous environmental care and concern. "Although the technology has global application, in Europe today there is a very pressing need to sensibly unlock European based supplies of natural gas and oil."

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The research group, which already includes Rice University in Arizona, will focus on the comprehensive study and design of the safety aspects of "achieving an environmentally and socially acceptable technology for oil and gas production from shales".

Opponents say hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could endanger the environment by polluting the water supply.

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