© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
WKSU Stories

Frackers in the Utica Shale get a Production Boost from Ceramic Beads

Ceramic beads used for fracking proppant
Ceramic beads used for fracking proppant

Even as the region’s natural gas boom is driven toward bust by depressed world energy markets, drillers have had a production breakthrough at a Utica Shale well. 

Ceramic beads used for fracking proppant
Credit CARBO CERAMICS
/
Ceramic beads used for fracking proppant

Fracking forces apart rock layers. And a‘proppant’in thefrackingfluid, usually sand, keeps the cracks open.  But for deep wells, as in the Utica Shale, the weight of 2 miles of earth can squash sand grains and limit output.  For a new well in Pennsylvania, drillers used man-made, ceramic beads that won’t crush. The well ‘came in’ last week with record production. 

Robert Chase
Credit MARIETTA COLLEGE
/
Robert Chase

But, there is fluid-flow back afterfracking; ifit includes ceramic beads, does that create an environmental issue?  Bob Chase, emeritus professor at Marietta College, doesn’t think so. 

“You get that flow-back and you will get some of that propant coming back.  But sand, obviously, is just sand.  And the ceramic proppant is a silicone material made stronger than sand by baking it. But there are no disposal issues associated with the propant.”

Chase says ceramic beads have been used for years in deep-well areas.   

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.