Thursday, 31 July 2014
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Portable inflatable tank could reduce eco impact of fracking

A UK company hopes to reduce the impact of fracking on the environment using new technology adapted from its blast protection system.

Newport-based Cintec has created a portable, inflatable polymer tank for storing water and waste from the hydraulic fracturing gas drilling process, developed from the company’s novel Waterwall technology used to isolate and safely detonate bombs.

The 64,000-litre hexagonal tank is designed as a way to store the huge amount of water needed for fracking rather than digging a permanent reservoir, which would otherwise be needed even for test sites that may only be used for a short time.

It can also be used to drain the debris produced by fracking by fitting it with porous bags that allow the water to be collected and recycled in the pool below.

‘The beauty of it is that it’s a completely inert material,’ Cintec managing director Peter James told The Engineer. ‘You can fit all this [water] in and afterwards you just pack it away and the site’s left as it was before.’

Cintec developed the prototype tank from its blast protection system, which uses self-inflating structures made from a PVC-coated material that are internally reinforced with a specialised stitching technique and filled with water to absorb the energy from exploding bombs.

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Source: Cintec

The 64,000-litre tank takes less than two hours to inflate and fill

The company, which began by specialising in building anchoring and reinforcing, first adapted this technology to help support the central chamber of Egypt’s oldest stone pyramid while it was being restored, filling the bags with air rather than water.

This idea was then transferred to the creation of the giant water tanks, using the reinforced internal stitching of the inflated bags to provide the necessary strength to hold tens of thousands of litres of water.

‘The challenge was to make it because it’s such a huge thing,’ said James. Although its design principles are the same as those of the Waterwall, the tank is more than four times as large as Cintec’s biggest blast protection system.

The angle of the stitches mean the bags that make up the tank’s sides must be straight in shape so the tank is built as a hexagon rather than the ideal circular form.

This also creates potential weakness at the corners so Cintec is planning to reinforce them before the tank is launched commercially. James estimated the company could eventually produce even bigger pools to store up to 100,000 litres.

The tank was designed to be able to withstand increased pressure on one side so it can be placed on uneven ground. The company also plans to install a heater in the side of the pool to prevent the water freezing in cold climates.


Readers' comments (5)

  • If fracking one well needs 12000cum of water it will require filling one of these babies 190 times. Has this really been thought out?

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  • thanks for the post

    you are absolutely right it will reduce fracking to a great extent

    http://watertank.net/

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  • Fracking is insanity defined. Firstly, injecting millions of litres of a precious resource into the ground to bring up some gas that will only last us for another couple of decades is delaying the transition to renewables. Instead of investing in sustainable enegy solutions, the British government has decided to give £500 million to the gas industry when it could have given the same to renewables (if the gas lobby hadn't got in the way). A dangerously short-sighted political decision.

    Secondly, most of Britain already suffers from water stress. The best way to reduce the eco impact of fracking is not to frack at all. Injecting millions of litres of water into the ground where it mixes with radioactive materials and cannot be treated effectively makes no economic or environmental sense.

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  • When even the people - Cuadrilla - who are leading the field in trying to exploit fracking in the UK do not know how to dispose of the waste waster from fracking operations, nor what it will contain in terms of toxic elements including low-level radioactivity, I am frankly quite amazed that a product such as this should be proposed as an aid to shale gas exploration and exploitation. I can imagine that the environmentalists are either laughing their heads off or weeping, and the shale gas companies are just shaking their heads in disbelief.

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  • Nice concept of creating a v large temporary fabric tank. I had a project to do the same for the Services: the spec was that the tank could hold 100,000 gallons, but be able to fit into the back of a land-rover. An inflatable item -yes but recognising the increased hoop stresses as depth increased, we came-up with a woven fabric that was of variable thickness, and hence strength across its width. When formed into the tank the strongest material (thickest) was positioned at the bottom of the 'sides' .

    Have no view on what this present tank might be used for but hope this input is of assistance.
    Best
    Mike b

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