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Natural Gas Without Fracking

by retirebyforty on May 18, 2012 · 7 comments

in investing

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hydro fracking alternative

image via wikipedia

Have you heard that the US has 100 years supply of natural gas in the ground? Accessing this untapped resource requires a process called Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking). You can read all about fracking at Wiki, but the bottom line is by using this process, we are injecting all kinds of nasty chemicals into the ground and contamination is unavoidable. I’m sure the companies do their best (as cheaply as possible) to minimize the environmental impact, but you know there is a problem when your tap water catches fire. There have also been many reports of earthquakes in previously stable areas that may have been caused by fracking. Is natural gas worth the environmental cost and are there any viable alternatives to fracking?

Alternative to Fracking

It turns out there is. Hypersolar is a small startup that is developing a nanotechnology solution to produce hydrogen and natural gas from the combination of sunlight, water, and CO2. The key piece of this technology is the ability to use waste water instead of purified water. Can you imagine a factory that takes in sewer waste water and turns that into energy? Instead of screwing up the environment, the Hypersolar energy factory will help clean it up. This factory also does not need electricity to run because it is relying on photosynthesis. Imagine a large field of solar panel array in Death Valley with a natural gas pipe leading away from it. That’s what this factory would look like. A press release earlier this year stated that the initial testing of wastewater from a paper mill proved to be a success so it seems the technology is feasible.

However, this technology is still in development and hasn’t been tested on a large scale or for a long period. It will most likely be much more expensive than fracking to begin with because the infrastructure is not there to support this technology yet. I’m sure it will take millions in investment dollars to nurture this technology and bring it to market. My prediction is the company will have to look outside the US because we have so much “cheap” natural gas trapped in the shale. China and other countries that have an increasing need for energy might be a good place to look for investors.

How much do you think a technology like this is worth? Facebook is going to be worth over 100 billion dollars. Personally, I think an energy solution like this is worth much more than something frivolous like Facebook, but that’s just me. Should they take this to Shark Tank?

Disclosure: This is not a recommendation to invest in Hypersolar. I have a few shares because a friend is involved in this project. I invested in the company pre IPO at 10 cents per share. After they went public, I sold about half my shares at 14 cents/share. At this time, the stock is worth 3 cents. Overall, the investment is in the red, but I’m comfortable enough to let the rest of the money ride. It’s not a large amount of money. This kind of investment is very risky and doesn’t fit my current dividend investing philosophy, but I think of it as supporting the environment. I just want to share an alternative to fracking, especially since some of Mrs. RB40’s family members recently inherited some land and are considering negotiating with a natural gas exploration company.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog May 18, 2012 at 8:02 am

There is tons of stuff about fracking out there, and I’m disheartened that you elected to highlight some of the more ‘pressworthy’ stuff. Fracking has been going on where I grew up since the 70s, and there have been few problems. I’m assuming that’s a clip from the movie ‘gasland’, which was centered around pavillion, WY, in the state where I live. There’s no disputing that the water there has been contaminated, but it’s very difficult to tie it directly to the gas companies that have been operating in the area. There’s no “baseline” data on groundwater quality, and because of the unique geology in the area (very shallow water table at about ~1200 feet) and gas at depths below 7,000. Issues could have occured with the well casing, but not because of fracking itself.
However, that new technology is quite interested, and I’m definitely going to read up on that. Could be a great thing for all the muni waste facilities.

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Kurt @ Money Counselor May 18, 2012 at 8:30 am

As usual when there’s massive amounts of money to be made, U.S. energy producers are going full steam ahead with fracking though we aren’t even close to understanding all the consequences of the technology–earthquakes and ground water contamination are suspected, but unconfirmed, effects. One challenge in assessing the impact on ground water is that fracking companies do not disclose the chemicals they inject in the ground to facilitate fracking because no law requires that the do disclose. Makes it kinda tough to prove they’re contaminating water when you don’t know for which potential contaminants to test.

Vermont’s Governor signed yesterday a bill banning fracking in his state, saying “This bill will ensure that we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy.”

I’m quite sure that whatever science exists that calls into question the environmental impact of fracking is being aggressively suppressed and undercut by energy producers with very, very deep pockets.

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Ron May 18, 2012 at 8:36 am

I’m sure fracking is not completely evil. But, it seems that companies using this process need to be a little more cautious in populated areas. Bad press can ruin the most noble of efforts. Unfortunately looking for energy is a bumpy road and every process seems to have a dark side. I would like to see more research effort put into renewable energy such as biofuels. But even biofuels have their drawbacks depending on what we use as the production source. It’s a good thing horses aren’t extinct… We may need them again.

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krantcents May 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm

With 100 year supply of gas, I always wondered why we don’t use natural gas for our cars. I only know of one major manufacturer (Honda) that offers a car (Civic) that will run on natural gas. Wouldn’t reduce our dependency on oiil?

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Moneycone May 19, 2012 at 3:17 am

With states beginning to ban fracking (Vermont recently), this might warrant some serious thought.

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101 Centavos May 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Good question, why aren’t NG vehicles more prevalent? Hopefully things are moving in the right direction. Earlier this month Love’s in Oklahoma announced the opening of 10 CNG stations.

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Forest May 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm

That video is so frightening, doesn’t matter how many times I watch it the impact is the same.

I’m not keen on taking stuff out of the ground in general but acknowledge I am a consumer too so it would be hypocritical to say it should 100% stop…. Obviously we need to work towards that though. Natural gas without fracking sounds like a decent start and bridge at least but I am sure there will be some other sore side effect.

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