Energy companies use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to draw natural gas out of shale formations. The chemicals used in fracking fluid have raised concerns because of possible water contamination.
Julio Friedmann, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told the Platts news service on the sidelines of a world energy conference in Houston that if companies "blow up a lot of rocks" using explosive material, they may be able to get gas out of shale without using fracking fluid.
"Water use is big and it complicates things," he was quoted as saying.
He said the environmental impact of using underground explosives is "benign" and uses "almost no water" but added the idea was still in the infant stage.
"The technology I think is promising but immature," he said. "There's simply a lot more that we're like to understand about these technologies before we'd even try to bring them to the public."
The U.S. Interior Department said new proposals for shale would require a disclosure of fracking chemicals while protecting corporate trade secrets.