No not that ‘F’ word. I’m talking about Fracking. Recently yet another person I really respect in the biochar world has been talking about optimizing biochar to mitigate the harm created by fracking. This is one of those uses of biochar that makes the idealist in me cringe, but the pragmatist in me understand that fracking is happening at an ever increasing rate and the environment surrounding fracking wells is suffering. Badly.
Articles such as this one, which talks about using biochar to treat the enormous amounts of flowback water contaminated during fracking show there is a lot of ‘promise’, if that is the right word, in using biochar to filter out these unnamed toxins. What they fail to address though is what to do with that biochar once it has adsorbed the toxins. It’s not exactly a desirable commodity that could be sold. Perhaps the chemical filled char could be cleaned similar to how activated charcoal is, but that is both costly and complicated and most assuredly would negate any potential carbon negative aspects of using biochar. Perhaps it could be injected down old oil wells or old mines where it is unlikely to come into contact with food growing land or ground water. But in all likelihood it is likely to be managed as hazardous material, which just means one more headache to be solved in the fracking formula. This just kicks the can down the road a bit longer.
While the market for biochar is still at the neophyte stage and production has, for now, outpaced demand, I suspect that more and more biochar will find its way to uses such as this one. We shall, or I suppose I should say we ‘shale’ see what the future brings.