When analyzing the global economy, it is fairly easy to see the huge increase in oil prices over the past several decades. This spike in prices can trigger an economic recession not only in the United States but all over the world, just as the disruption of the oil supply from abroad can increase oil prices. To address this ongoing problem, the United States has realized the need to diversify energy sources by purchasing crude oil from different countries while at the same time advancing the use of local sources of oil, coal and natural gas. The anxiety related to the scarcity of oil has increased the promotion of the use of natural gas.
The extraction of natural gas from shale requires the use of advanced technology such as hydraulic fracturing; this requires using multiple vacuum trucks to aid in the storage, removal and transportation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste material. The following is information regarding the extraction of natural gas and the role that vacuum trucks play in this process.
The majority of oil wells in the United States utilize hydraulic fracturing to extract large quantities of natural gas, a process that involves introducing billions of gallons of water, proprietary chemicals, sand and propellants. All these substances are injected using high pressure to stimulate and crack the shale and eventually open fissures to allow the natural gas to flow up to the surface.
Well stimulation happens immediately after the boring process. Perforated steel pipes are inserted in the drilled rig at target zones. When these pipes have been properly positioned, water, sand and propellants are injected. The pressure created from this process causes the shale to crack which in turn allows gas and fluid to flow back into the well after the stimulation process ceases. The back-flow of these fluids goes into designated tanks, which are then transported to treatment facilities for disposal.
Vacuum Truck Demand
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately ten billion gallons of water and four million pounds of propellants per well are pumped annually. Only 20 to 85 percent of these fluids remain underground; the rest flows to the surface along with methane and hydrocarbons. Due to the high volume of fractured fluid, a large number of vacuum trucks are required to sustain the process and for its safe transportation to treatment facilities 24 a day, 7 days a week. It is estimated that approximately 200 vacuum truck trips are made each day to convey billions of gallons of fluid to and from these sites. Vacuum trucks are in such high demand in natural gas production by providing the essential delivery of water for the extraction process, removing recovered fluids for transportation to various treatment plants and pumping sand, ceramic beads, water and chemicals into the wells.
Hydraulic fracturing is an innovative technique used in the United States to extract billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. The abundance of natural gas in the Marcellus shale in America requires this well-stimulation practice and a transportation system to take care of waste disposal, spill clean-ups and water hauling for drilling including the disposal of waste water.