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Skipping the Water in Fracking


Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses large amounts of water injected into wells under high pressure to help free natural gas and oil from shale deposits (see “Drilling for Shale Gas”). Yet some of the world’s largest sources of shale gas are found in deserts, making the technique seem impractical.

It’s possible to fracture gas-rich rock formations without using any water at all. Indeed, gas and oil companies have been using carbon dioxide this way for decades, albeit on a limited basis. But if this approach is going to be used on a large scale, it will require a major investment in infrastructure for getting carbon dioxide to fracking sites. And in some cases a price on carbon emissions may be the only way to make the economics work.

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