About Our Technology

The Problem

Hydraulic fracturing (also called "fracking" or "fracing") is a controversial natural gas extraction process that has increased the nation's domestic energy supply, yet many believe it may compromise drinking water sources near drilling sites. The process involves high-pressure injection of chemical-laden fluids into underground shale layers to access natural gas. This form of natural gas currently accounts for 23% of US natural gas production, but the EIA predicts that this share will expand to 49% by 2035. Communities are concerned, and companies must court them in order to access ideal drilling sites. At the same time, state budgets for monitoring and regulation are shrinking.

Our Solution

Our solution is BaseTrace, a well-specific DNA-based tracer that can be added to the hydraulic fracturing fluid, enabling us to determine whether connectivity exists between drilling sites and ground or drinking water. The tracer is composed of inexpensive, inert strands of resilient DNA mixed into hydraulic fracturing fluid, providing each well with a chemical fingerprint that is simple and cheap to identify. BaseTrace can provide a definitive answer to questions regarding the fate of hydraulic fluid, thus reducing the issue of uncertainty in liability and improving information on well maintenance.

We believe our tiny tracer can play a large role in the development of clean energy, deriving technology from across different fields to provide the tools for accountability in the rapidly growing natural gas market and beyond. Regulatory hurdles for hydraulic fracturing are currently increasing, and larger companies are eager to voluntarily demonstrate Best Management Practices and explore the use of technology that shows environmental stewardship. Our services will also be valuable to smaller drilling firms seeking access to leases where there may be local barriers to entry due to groundwater concerns.

Experimental Milestones

Due to the extreme conditions within the drilling environment, our tracer needs to be extremely resilient, which is precisely the reason we selected DNA. We are conducting survival analyses under a variety of conditions, increased salinity, high concentrations of heavy metal ions, and extreme UV exposure, in various media including actual frac fluid and flowback. Next steps in the lab are pushing the tracer to more extreme conditions, including extreme temperatures and pressures. We are seeking partnerships with oil, gas, and environmental service entities in order to perform a field demonstration of this breakthrough technology.