Researchers with the Southwest Research Institute (“SwRI”) and The University of Texas at San Antonio (“UTSA”) reported last week that they have created and tested substances called “biochar” for use in treating flowback water from wells using hydraulic fracturing. In a press release, the researchers note that biochar is a stable, charcoal-like substance created from plant-based agricultural waste. The biochar operates by attracting and retaining water, trapping impurities in the water in the process.

The researchers tested the efficacy of different types of biochar in filtering from water the specific substances oil and gas companies use in their fracking fluids. UTSA mechanical engineering professor Zhigang Feng said that the team’s “research demonstrates that this is a product that can reduce the environmental impact of drilling in a way that is safe and inexpensive to industry.” While it remains to be seen whether the oil & gas industry adopts the use of biochar in its operations, the research seems promising.

For more information, see the SwRI press release.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) and Jim Hartle ( or 713 651 5695) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.