New York City's new mayor, Bill De Blasio, is against fracking as evidenced by his recent remarks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which included statements like, "The one thing I am firm about is that I don't see any place for fracking" and "my view is that there should be a moratorium on fracking in New York State until the day comes that we can actually prove it's safe, and I don't think that day is coming any time soon." De Blasio questions the reliability of science and technology and is also concerned there is just too much danger to the state's water supply to allow tracking to move forward. So the question looms, if New York does not move fast enough to produce enough renewable energy in its own backyard and needs additional funding for post-Sandy resilience, does that force Governor Cuomo's hand to open up fracking to the Southern region of New York State when the fracking moratorium expires in May 2015? If that question does lead to a lifting of the moratorium, whether you are for or against fracking, the investment window of opportunity could open for companies that are focused on making fracking cleaner, if that's really possible.
Overall, the energy industry is actively moving to reduce, reuse, and recycle water. This has me interested in Nuverra Environmental Solutions (NYSE: NES), a company working on a pilot program with Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) in the Bakken region to recycle wastewater right on site. However, if we had to advance fracking (and I did say "if"), wouldn't it make sense to do so "without" using water at all?
One company that is actively using a waterless liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gel fracturing technology is GASFRAC Energy Services. Considering injecting water into oil and gas wells to stimulate fossil fuel recovery has caused major concerns from environmentalists, (ex.contaminated flowback water and increased seismic activity in regions where fracking is active), the idea of waterless fracking technology is appealing since it may not disturb the geological formation. If that really is true that should bode well for GASFRAC as it looks to expand its presence in North America. This idea would become even more popular if propane, the primary petroleum used in GASFRAC's gel, can be transported more cheaply and shown to be very effective at deeper depths of formation "without" any environmental concerns.
GASFRAC's LPG gel, which was named one of Time Magazine's 25 Best Inventions for 2013, can be customized for different formations and even offered in a Hybrid LPG system. Ultimately my enthusiasm for LPG gel really comes down to the fact it increases initial production rates, and it helps establish production much sooner than traditional fracturing methods. Therefore those patents can be very valuable since GASFRAC holds a dominant position in LPG fracturing and could even license its technology to third parties. Throw in the fact that the company's LPG gel reduces time on location, reduces net cost since customized fluids allow frac fluid recovery, and E&P companies who are looking for savings wherever possible may be more willing than ever to partner with GASFRAC. Additionally, LPG may be better for the environment since water is not wasted (80% of water used in conventional fracking stays in the well).
GASFRAC's LPG can also be reused, so it reduces truck traffic and a project's overall carbon footprint. This may be why other companies such as Shell, Apache (NYSE:APA), Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and others have become early adopter clients. This may also present a good opportunity for GASFRAC management to possibly explore a strong pitch to New York's Cuomo and De Blasio to determine if waterless technology can at all influence the fracking conversation in the state ahead of what is certainly a major decision with national implications, especially since Cuomo may be a candidate for the Oval Office in the next Presidential Election.