So we have talked a lot here about the specifics of water treatment and how this is done, but one area that I think all of us can agree is the volume of water trucks on the road. I was recently in Greene County PA at a well site and was stuck behind a huge convoy of tankers bringing water to a frac job. I could see the obvious inconvenience and damage that these trucks can do to a community, but oddly enough the efforts to reduce/eliminate them has been fought by ... you guessed it, the environmentalists and some people inside the regulatory community.
I will take you back to late 2008 whereby we were working with a smaller Exploration and Production firm in West Virginia. We proposed an on-site closed loop treatment system whereby the company would use the treated flow back water to frac the next well. The problem was that the well would not be ready to frac for two to three months. The company put the treated water in a treatment pond (double containment) and went down the road to do work at another well (10 miles away). They had the site controlled and the water was treated except for dissolved solids (at about 11%). The local environmental opposition group alerted the WV DEP and the company while not breaking any rules, were asked to remove the water from the pit and sent it off for disposal. This created the need for dozens of trucks to the site and then another 300 or so when they had to go back to fracture the next well.
This was unfortunate and ultimately slowed down the pace of on-site treatment by E&P firms. Why pay the money if the State eventually FORCES you to move the water. Now, I am not speaking for all regulators as many I have spoken too agree that on-site treatment is a winner for all parties. Unfortunately, many of those who are adamantly opposed to drilling in any way are standing in the way of progress for on-site treatment trials. They claim spills, leaks, the use of unsafe technologies or chemicals etc in their opposition.
Oddly enough the spills on record have occurred on-site where the water was being SHIPPED OFF-SITE. To date, we cannot find one document spill or safety issue related to on-site treatment of water.
Further, the treatment reduces truck traffic in the community. This is often the number one complaint I hear when talking to land owners. On a typical 4 well pad, an on-site treatment unit could potential take 500 or more trucks off of the road during development of the four wells. This is a win-win for industry, the environment and the local stakeholders. In a recent town meeting, one aggrieved soul felt that the only way to protect the environment for ANY chance of damage was to permanently shut down gas development in PA until we can be 100% certain of public safety. The last time I checked, there is no such thing as a 100% certainty, even riding the bus to work in the morning.
The E&P firms have a vested interest in not degrading the environment as regulators and tort lawyers lurk around every well head. Effective on-site treatment reduces trailers, road damage, accidents and potential spills. For that, we are the target of the anti-drilling crowd.
Until next time...