Two Graduate Students Present Environmental Alternative to Traditional Hydrofracking

Two graduate chemical engineering students at Manhattan College may have a solution to making hydrofracking more environmentally friendly based on the research they presented at the International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management.

In recent years, hydraulic fracturing also known as hydrofracking, the process of creating cracks in underground formations and holding them open with granular materials (proppants), has allowed the extraction of vast quantities of natural gas located near populated areas in the Eastern United States. However, the process of hydrofracking has sparked controversy because of the environmental and economic risks the drilling presents. But two graduate chemical engineering students at Manhattan College may have a solution based on the research they presented at the 27th International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management in Philadelphia, March 11-14.

The research project is titled Collagen-Based Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Research, and both Charity Njau ’12 and Ramiro Magboo ’12 presented their findings on March 13.

“We are developing a collagen-based hydraulic fracturing fluid using collagen that is manufactured from waste bovine corium by the chemical engineering students at Manhattan College,” said Njau, a Manhattan College alumna now studying for her master’s degree.

The collagen-based dispersions would be environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional hydraulic fracturing fluids, which contain a variety of chemicals and, if not managed properly, can leak or spill into water reservoirs, posing environmental and health risks.

“Collagen is a smart fluid because it has controllable gelling characteristics,” Njau said.

According to their paper, the students have found that they can control the ability to suspend and deliver proppants to the fractures by collagen concentration and mild pH adjustments.