Process could clean up water used in natural gas drilling

Mar 12, 2010 by Janet Frye

(PhysOrg.com) -- Texas A&M Engineering is playing a role in a technological breakthrough that could clean up the contaminated water recovered from drilling natural gas wells in shale deposits through the process of "hydraulic fracturing."

David Burnett of Texas A&M’s Global Petroleum Research Institute -- in partnership with the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and Carl Vavra of the TEES Food Protein R&D Center Separation Sciences Laboratory, developed the membrane filtration technology -- which has been licensed to a major oil field service company for commercialization.

Burnett and his partners have developed a lab protocol and analytical methodology for technicians who will be field-testing and analyzing the “frac” after it has been recaptured and processed to determine if it is clean enough to reuse or recycle. A pilot class was recently conducted at TEEX’s Water and Environmental Training Laboratory on the Texas A&M Riverside Campus.

“The resources in shale are ubiquitous and the oil and gas industry has learned how to tap into these,” Burnett said. “There is 10 times more gas in shale deposits, but it takes a lot of wells and uses a lot of water. Each well can use a three-month supply of water for a city of 4,000 people. A lot of the water comes back contaminated and the companies have to dispose of it.

“Water is at the center of the problem,” he added. “We have to find a way to treat and re-use this water. If the water is to be used for purposes other than reinjection into the oil or gas field, then we need to purify the contaminated water, and we need credible proof that the filtered water doesn’t have environmental contaminants and meets the EPA standard for fresh water.”

That’s where TEEX comes in.

During a 32-hour customized Intermediate Water Laboratory course recently, TEEX’s Keith McLeroy and a cadre of other water experts trained 10 technicians in the analytical techniques needed to verify the purity of the water. They got hands-on experience and demonstrations of various instrumentation, said McLeroy, associate training specialist with TEEX’s Infrastructure Training & Safety Institute.

Recycling and treating the frac water would not only eliminate the expense of hauling the wastewater away for disposal, but it would reduce the total water consumption since the water could be reused again and again in the frac drilling process, Burnett said.

Pilot studies have shown that proper pretreatment of water used to fracture new gas wells could save an average of $40,000 per well, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.

Explore further: How to prevent organic food fraud

Provided by Texas A&M University

3.3 /5 (6 votes)

Related Stories

U.S. attacks problem of 'produced water'

Jun 20, 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy has designed a Web program to help oil and natural gas companies solve the environmental challenge of produced water.

Rocky water source

Jun 11, 2008

Gypsum, a rocky mineral is abundant in desert regions where fresh water is usually in very short supply but oil and gas fields are common. Writing in International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, Peter van der Ga ...

Simple way to remove oil from water

Aug 05, 2005

Australian researchers say they have devised a simple tank-and-siphon system for removing oil from oily water to protect the environment.

Uranium mining prospect worries neighbors

Nov 17, 2006

A company wanting to mine for uranium in south Texas said a strike would be an alternative fuel dream while opponents said it's an environmental nightmare.

Recommended for you

Protein glue shows potential for use with biomaterials

19 hours ago

Researchers at the University of Milan in Italy have shown that a synthetic protein called AGMA1 has the potential to promote the adhesion of brain cells in a laboratory setting. This could prove helpful ...

Breaking benzene

Aug 27, 2014

Aromatic compounds are found widely in natural resources such as petroleum and biomass, and breaking the carbon-carbon bonds in these compounds plays an important role in the production of fuels and valuable ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Caliban
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2010
Just sell it to Coca-Cola, or Nestle or someone- essentialy the same product- as in distilled water that has been doped with a few buffer solutes so that it doesn't capture every available ion out of your body when you drink it.
Maybe that way, Nestle/Coke, et al will stop trying to corner the fresh drinking water supplies the world over. I know, I know - a pipe dream....
Shootist
not rated yet Mar 12, 2010
100 1GW fission plants would go a long way towards letting you flash that dirty water to steam and reclaim the cleaned water, or turn it to H2 to run our magic pixie dust powered futuristic vehicles.