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ACS GCI Holds Green Chemistry Gathering for Oil and Gas Companies

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The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® convened companies in the oil and gas industry at the annual ACS GCI Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable recently to discuss greener chemicals and processes in hydraulic fracturing. Baker Hughes hosted the meeting at their Western Hemisphere Education Center in Tomball, Texas. Attending companies included DuPont, Baker Hughes, BASF, Canadian Energy Services, Rockwater and its subsidiary, Select Energy, and Locus BioEnergy. A diversity of participants were at the table ranging from chemists to chemical and petroleum engineers to microbiologists to technology and business development leads. Apache is also a Roundtable member.

The ACS GCI Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable’s mission is to integrate green chemistry and engineering principles into the chemical supply chain for hydraulic fracturing. Since 2015, the Roundtable has sought to enable informed decisions about those chemicals commonly employed in hydraulic fracturing, and works to promote the prioritized development of more sustainable chemical alternatives.

The Roundtable has investigated the potential use of enzymes for biofilm degradation, recently wrapping up a research project with Montana State University’s Center of Biofilm Engineering. The Roundtable continues to pursue its interest in minimizing the use of biocides, and may turn its attention to bio-based water treatment to enable increased water recycling in a typical frack operation. At the meeting, Ken Barrett of BASF Enzymes presented three commercial examples of BASF’s work on “Enzymes in Hydraulic Fracturing”.

Professor Pedro Alvarez, director of the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center at Rice University, presented current research in “Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment”. The research center is developing, among a host of opportunities, nanotech for on-site industrial water treatment. This would enable remote oil and gas locations to clean and reuse water rather than having to transport it and treat it offsite.

Locus BioEnergy’s Amir Mahmoudkhani, director of technology, presented “Microbial Surfactants: Properties and Applications in Oilfield Completion.” Locus BioEnergy has developed a fermentation process that makes use of vegetable oil and sugar to produce a novel bio-based and renewable surfactant with superior properties to existing surfactants produced through a traditional chemical manufacturing process.  

Matt Todd, director of the American Petroleum Institute’s Environmental Program, presented an overview of their work to improve the environmental performance of the oil and natural gas industry. Collaborating with over 70 operator companies, the initial focus of the group is the reduction of methane and volatile organic compound emissions to air, from oil and natural gas operations across the sector.

Since we will continue to rely on non-conventional oil and gas for chemicals and fuel for the foreseeable future, it is essential to take every opportunity to apply more sustainable and greener chemistry approaches to the industry, even as we strive to adopt low-carbon energy sources. Looking forward, the Roundtable is working on a publication outlining some of these challenges and opportunities, and will continue to explore the topics above, in addition to greener alternatives for produced water management.