Mon., 8:30am: Water treatment in fracking presents challenge

YOUNGSTOWN – Speaking at the 2013 Youngstown Ohio Utica and Natural Gas Conference and Expo last week, Johan Pfeiffer, the vice president of surface technologies for FMC Technologies, said that water treatment regarding the fracking process is a challenge.

Such a challenge that “moving to the area of 100 percent recycled water” was an imperative. Water management is a big deal and the industry is bringing all it can to bear. Noting that the move has already begun in the Marcellus Shale plays, Pfeiffer said, “If we don’t address the water issue we will lose it.”

It takes about 4.4 million gallons of water to frack a well, according to – an amount it says is the equivalent to what 11,000 America families use in a day. During the fracking process drillers pay to haul to the site and water disposal expenses costs about 11 cents per gallon.

Companies working on water recycling technology have taken notice. E&P magazine reported on one company in it March 2013 edition. “OriginOil is spreading the word about its frack flowback water-cleaning technology, hoping others will see value in a low-energy, chemical-free system the company says is capable of lowering costs and bringing in revenue,” a report read.

An advisor for the company said the economics is driving the technology to clean up the water. Locally, the Buckeye Realty Transfer hub in Columbiana has plans for a water recycling facility and up north, at the Ohio Commerce Center near Lordstown, a similar hub with frack sand unloading capabilities, pipe storage and a truck-to-rail transfer station and a water recycling facility is part of the plan.

Both the Buckeye Realty Transfer and Ohio Commerce Center are operational and distributing sand. Both said they will have unicar (100 cars) capacity.

The need is growing. Pfeiffer explained that the first pilot unit that removes impurities and chemicals from frack water is in use in the Rockies.

“The challenge is to take this pilot unit and make it commercial. We look at this in modules.” He explained the approaches being studied to remove the solid particles in the water: hydrocyclonic, oxidation and ceramic membranes.

The hydrocyclone spins the water “very fast” and the solid particles separate out while desanders and desilters separate sand and silt from the fluids in drilling rigs. There is also oxidation of soluble organics and contaminants and ceramic membranes are being used as another tool.

“There’s a lot of water technology out there,” Pfeiffer said.

FMC has identified three markets where it can be used.