Non-Flammable Propane Stimulation

Key Facts

  • Technological innovation developed in 2013 by ecorpStim R&D team in Houston, Texas (United States).
  • Not a single drop of water, no chemical additives of any kind whatsoever are used in the NFP Stimulation.
  • Concept: uses heptafluoropropane as a stimulation fluid, which completely eliminates the risk associated with the flammability of regular propane.
  • It is completely safe
  • Just like regular propane, heptafluoropropane is aimed at being recovered under a gaseous form for an immediate or future re-use.
  • NFP Stimulation is the non-flammable alternative to Pure Propane Stimulation

What is Non Flammable Propane Stimulation ?

Non-flammable propane (NFP) stimulation consists in using a fluorinated form of propane (heptafluoropropane) as the stimulation fluid, to completely eliminate the industrial risk associated with the flammability of regular propane.

NFP Stimulation was developed in 2013 by ecorpStim R&D team in Houston, as a response to questions raised by the French government experts following their due diligence on pure propane stimulation in South Texas, in December 2012 (see “French project”).

Because heptafluoropropane is not flammable, NFP stimulation can be used in areas with a high density of population, as it is the case in Europe.

Heptafluoropropane presents no risk to human health. It is widely used as a propellant in inhalers for children and adults. It is also very commonly used as a fire extinguisher in human environments such as homes, offices, work places and schools.

Heptafluoropropane is a very stable hydrocarbon and as such, its presents a global warming potential. However, the concept of using heptafluoropropane for shale gas extraction is based on the absolute requirement that everything is done to prevent any leak of product into the atmosphere.

NFP Stimulation eliminates 100% of the industrial risk associated with the use of regular propane

Using heptafluoropropane as the stimulation fluid completely eliminates the flammability / explosion risk associated with regular propane. Also, NFP Stimulation strengthens the security system as it is applied to all stages of the operation chain:

  • On roads, during the transport of the stimulation fluid in trucks
  • On the exploration/exploitation platform, during the stimulation operation
  • On site or in a warehouse, for the storage of the fluid

Lastly, because heptafluoropropane is non-flammable, the sites where NFP Stimulation will be used in Europe will not be subject to the European SEVESO classification.

Why will NFP Stimulation not result in the release of greenhouse gases?

The global warming potential of heptafluoropropane could potentially cause problems if this molecule was released into the atmosphere. But this will not be the case, as appropriate control measures will be used to prevent leakage on the surface, such as effluent monitoring and automatic emergency shut down for any effluent heptafluoropropane detected.

Preventing leaks is not only mandatory for environmental reasons, but it also an economic requirement: heptafluoropropane is very expensive and it must be recovered for reuse in new stimulations. No operator would bear the cost of NFP Stimulation if it there were even small releases of heptafluoropropane into the atmosphere. This economic constraint is the best guarantee that NFP Stimulation will not cause heptafluoropropane discharges that may produce effects on global warming.

Isn’t NFP Stimulation a challenging technology from a cost perspective?

Heptafluoropropane is expensive, but the NFP Stimulation process is designed in such a way that an extremely high percentage of the product is recovered from the well (a small fraction might remain trapped in the rock) once the rock has been stimulated. Because heptafluoropropane will be recovered and re-used many times, its cost will be amortized over several stimulations operations.

The techniques used to separate heptafluoropropane from the other components of natural gas at the well head include pressure separation, mechanical separation and finally membrane separation. 

Lastly, because the productivity of the well is increased with the use of heptafluoropropane (compared with water in hydraulic fracturing), this can only improve the economics of the technology.

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