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Marcellus Frack Water Source | Russell T. Rudy Energy LLC

According to a recent article in “Rigzone” the Marcellus shale has estimated recoverable reserves of 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the largest natural gas reservoir in North America.  Marcellus development has been made possible by technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracing.  The Marcellus boom has had a significant impact on Pennsylvania’s economy, but also on its water resources.  Fracing is a double edged sword in terms of water resources.  The initial water used in fracing has to come from a finite, and sometimes scarce, supply.  Further, the processed, or flowback, water has to be disposed of.

The problem with water is especially acute in Pennsylvania where acid mine drainage has extensively polluted the water supply.  Acid mine drainage sources are concentrated primarily in the southwestern part of the state. 3,000 streams have been affected and it has been estimated that 300-500 million gallons of contaminated water enter the state’s watershed each day.  Remediation costs are projected in the billions.

The typical frac job on a horizontal well in the Marcellus requires between four and five million gallons of water.  Approximately 10-15 million gallons of water is taken from the state’s water supply each day for shale development.

To summarize, shale development in southwestern Pennsylvania is confronted with three problems, limited sources of water, acid mine drainage pollution, and disposal of flowback water.  To date, the petroleum industry has made good progress in recycling about 87% of flowback water for reuse as a fracing fluid.  While this mitigates some of the problems it does not eliminate any of them.

However, a new technology is now available which might offer further relief.  Winner Water Services (WWS), is a joint venture between privately owned Winner Global LLC and Memorial Battelle Institute, a non- profit.  WWS is offering a new process which converts acid mine drainage into almost potable water which can be used as source water for fracing, or discharged into Pennsylvania’s watershed.  In addition to clean water, the process yields metal sulfate and sodium sulfate.   The latter can be used to treat flowback water to remove some of the dissolved solids.

To read the article in its entirety, please go to http://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?hpf=1&a_id=131968&.