Researchers at work on using liquid nitrogen instead of water in fracturing

Petroleum engineers in Colorado are working on a process called cryogenic fracturing, which replaces water with searing cold liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide.

And natural gas fields in the state may serve as a laboratory for testing this different way to fracture shale rock formations – one that doesn’t pump millions of gallons of water underground or result in contaminated wastewater.

Reporter Collin Eaton looks at how scientists at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden hope that the ultra-cold thermal shocks that occur when liquid nitrogen meets shale rock will have a similar effect as water, creating the needed stress to crack open the subterranean stores of oil and gas.

And, Eaton found, that because the liquid nitrogen would evaporate underground, cryogenic fracturing could form larger canals for oil and gas to flow through than water-based fracturing, boosting production.

For a closer look at the efforts underway in Colorado, see the full story at