R&D100 Award

R&D100 Finalist logo

Dr. Payton Gardner and a team from Sandia National Laboratories received prestigious R&D100 awards for 2016 for an experiment conducted at Sandia on a water free electro-fracturing test system. Hydraulic fracturing requires millions of barrels of water for each fracking job, and a water free method of fracturing shale could drastically reduce environmental impact. Electrofracturing is a water free method of fracturing rock, but has never been shown to work at high confining pressures such as that of hydrocarbon reservoirs. The group designed an experimental system which used high voltage pulse of electricity to fracture shale at confining pressures found in oil and gas reservoirs. The test system needed to be capable of sending high voltage electricity through a rock core which was subject to up to 8,500 psi confining pressure, and be capable of measuring the rock permeability over six orders of magnitude without moving the specimen or reducing the confining pressure. “Basically we had to sends 1000’s of volts through a rock with a confining pressure equivalent to 10,000 ft of burial, and measure gas flow which could be easily be anything from a snail to a rocket ship, without any knowledge of what it was going to be, all without ever being able to access and/or move the rock.” The team and experiment received R&D100 awards for “Green Technology” and “Innovative Analytical Test”.