Re: What’s in that fracking fluid?
I just read the "Chenango Greens-State hides..." written for the Narrowsburg Reporter I believe. It was from May 10, and may not be accurate.
Originally Posted by Joe D
Here is an article from The Press & Sun Bulletin, on Sunday( I'll highlight what I'm talking about):
Questions surround gas-drilling waste water
Treatment plants' capabilities lacking
By Tom Wilber • Press & Sun-Bulletin • July 27, 2008
Try pouring 10 gallons of industrial waste into a 10-ounce cup, and there you have the disposal problem regulators face with the natural gas industry settling into the Twin Tiers.
Once the drilling starts and millions of gallons of waste water begin flowing from thousands of wells, it will become everybody's problem, environmentalists say.
Treatment plants set up in the region aren't designed to handle the volume or type of waste expected from tapping the Marcellus Shale Formation, the rich reserve of natural gas running under the Southern Tier and Catskill region, throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.
"It's just the sort of question people are puzzling over here," Jim Tierney, assistant commissioner for water resources with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said late last week.
Sparky Delong, who operates a private treatment plant in Franklin, Pa., has an answer: Build more plants.
He operates Pennsylvania Brine Treatment, which serves the drilling industry exclusively. The company, specializing in the alchemy of turning waste into profit, is ready to build six more plants in the Keystone State to capitalize on the waste-disposal problem in Pennsylvania.
The Franklin plant, about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, treats brine water, as well as the more toxic byproducts of well drilling, including hydraulic fracturing fluid that contains additives used to break the shale apart to increase well production. Waste products from drilling also include acids, low-level radiation and heavy metals.
The contents of fracturing fluid -- called fracing (frack-ing) fluid -- is a guarded industry secret and varies from company to company, each using various chemical recipes to boost production. With the advent of more natural gas exploration, and technology making horizontal wells more common, a national debate is emerging over the wisdom of injecting toxic chemicals into the ground without full disclosure and strict oversight.
For the past 25 years, Delong treated waste from vertical wells traditionally drilled in the area. The plant currently handles about 205,000 gallons a day, and another plant in Josephine, Pa., east of Pittsburgh, processes about 155,000 gallons.
Horizontal wells will produce waste on a vastly larger scale. Each one encompasses areas 10 times greater than a typical vertical well, and there will be many more of them because the Marcellus shale covers such a vast geographical area.
How much waste is that?
"I can't even answer that," Delong said. "It's staggering."
It's also a big sticking point for regulators and the industry facing a comprehensive environmental review before it can begin horizontal drilling in New York. Tierney acknowledged a lack of oversight in other parts of the country, and said they will not issue permits for horizontal wells until questions are answered.
A basic question, of course, is: What's in the frac'ing fluid?
An answer is necessary before the next critical question can be addressed: Where will it go to be treated?
Sending it to Franklin, Pa., 280 miles from Binghamton and already operating near its limits, isn't a satisfactory answer.
Practical access to waste-disposal sites is an important condition for environmental safety. The further it has to slosh over rail or highway, the greater the traffic, costs, chances of accidents and incentives for dumping.
"Without that information, we will not issue a permit," Tierney said a day after Gov. David Paterson ordered an overhaul of the process to regulate drilling's environmental impact. "Nobody is escaping the review."
The regulatory overhaul, which will include public hearings and comments extending into next year, will focus on the impact on groundwater, surface water, wetlands, air quality, aesthetics, noise, traffic and community character, as well as drilling's cumulative impact.
The review is designed to uncover problems and put measures in place to fix them, including where water will come from for the horizontal drilling and how waste will be disposed of, Tierney said.
The problem became even more acute after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently ordered sewage treatment plants to stop accepting drilling waste water without knowing what it is and how to treat it.
Dave Allis, manager of a plant in Sayre, Pa., said the site was running clear fluids imported from drilling companies, but it stopped after the DEP warning in June. The plant lacked the wherewithal to test for metals and other contamination in a timely and cost-efficient way.
"It was more headache than it's worth," he said.
For specialists like Delong, that's an opportunity. He said he knows what's in the waste water based on who brings it to him, even though companies specializing in frac'(hearts)ng fluids -- like Halliburton -- are exempt from federal rules requiring disclosure of their contents.
How does he get around that?
"Twenty-five years experience," he said cryptically.
Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.--Henry David Thoreau