Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cleaning Up Your Fracking Act

Fracking may just be the word of the decade and the key to pushing back the boundary of Peak Oil.  Energy companies increasingly are drilling for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  In this process, water mixed with sand and chemicals is pumped into a well under high pressure; the mixture fractures the rock, allowing the gas to escape.  Huge amounts of water are used - - below is an estimate from an article in this week's Wall Street Journal:
  • 80,000 gallons of water needed for drilling (typical in shale-gas formation such as Marcellus Shale).
  • 3.8 million gallons of water needed for hydraulic fracturing.
  • 1 million gallons fracking water that returns to the surface.
  • 200 trucks needed to transport one million gallons.
The current drought in Texas has provided a new focus on water and wastewater management associated with fracked water.  The Journal listed three players and approaches in the business of frack water treatment.
  • Ecosphere Technologies, Inc. - - Based in Stuart, Florida.  The Ecosphere process forces dirty water through pipes where ozone breaks down contaminates with the help of sound waves, electrically charged particles, and changes in pressure.  No waste is created in the process, because while the technology renders contaminates harmless it doesn't filter anything out.
  • WaterTechonics, Inc. - - Based in Everett, Washington.  The company uses a process called electric coagulation, in which an electric charge forces contaminant particles into clumps that can be removed after they either rise to the surface of the water or sink to the bottom.  The process avoids the use of chemicals, but it does produce waste that has be disposed of.
  • Altela Inc. - - Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Wastewater is heated to the point of evaporation, which produces clean water in the form of vapor, leaving contaminate particles behind.  The vapor is then condensed back into liquid form.  This is nothing new - - except Altela has made it more efficient by capturing the heat generated by condensation and using it for evaporation.  The end result - - it uses a third of the energy typically required for conventional thermal distillation.

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