Men with Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural...

Men with Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural gas valve at a hydraulic fracturing site in South Montrose, Pa. (Jan. 18, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

ALBANY -- An upstate New York landowners group may partner with a Canadian company that uses liquid propane instead of controversial water-based hydraulic fracturing to get natural gas flowing into wells.

Chris Denton, the attorney representing the 2,000-member Tioga County Landowners Association, said yesterday that leaders of the group have reached a deal with Calgary-based GasFrac, which has used liquefied propane gas to frack wells in Canada, Texas and Colorado.

"This is no reflection on hydrofracking; we've always explored alternatives," Denton said. GasFrac came to New York last year and made presentations on its technology, which is reputed to give better natural gas yields than hydrofracking. "We were impressed. We did our research. If it's as viable as we think, it would be wonderful."

Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said the agency has met with the Tioga County group to discuss the plan.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a well with millions of gallons of chemically treated water at high pressure to fracture shale and release trapped natural gas. The process is at the center of a heated debate over whether it could contaminate groundwater with harmful chemicals. New York has refused to permit the process since it began an environmental review in 2008. A decision on whether to allow it is expected in several months.

GasFrac says its technology eliminates many of the concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing, such as the millions of gallons of water required and the cost and difficulty of disposing of toxic wastewater. With propane, all of the fracking gel is recaptured and reused.