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...

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Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on August 26, 2010 at 10:16am
I have been to Dimock multiple times, drive through regularly. I also know several other people who have wells on their land and have had NO problems at all. The number of people who have had issues is very small compared to the total number of wells drilled.
EVERYONE who lives here cares about their land and water. You are not the only one. However, some of us try to be proactive about it to avoid issues (water testing before drilling, good lease terms, etc) What happened in Dimock was abnormal and eventually the real truth will come out. In the meantime, it has raised issues that will help ensure that future drilling does not cause havoc with the water.
Comment by Michael Havelka on August 17, 2010 at 6:44am

The closed loop system is an on-site treatment technology that is mobilized to the site and it's main purpose is to make the water "good enough" to use for hydraulic fracturing. It is a complete treatment system but does not reduce the total dissolved solids (TDS aka salt) from the water. Since the E&P firms use salt and other compounds to weight the water anyway, this is acceptable to the driller. Removed are the dissolved organic compounds, suspended solids and heavy metals. The water that comes out of the system is very clean and while not ready to discharge into the environment, is perfect for reuse in further hydraulic fracturing.

I am not sure what 'gels' you are referring to, I assume you mean one of the frac water additives. In slick water systems, compounds like guar gum (hydroxyethyl cellulose) are added to suspend the sand in the water system. This is also used in cosmetics and ice cream as a thickener and is therefore a safe additive. Other potential gels might be the other 'slickeners' in the system which vary from company to company but are generally speaking similar to above, all considered safe, and are used in municipal and industrial water treatment on a daily basis.
Comment by daniel cohen on August 17, 2010 at 12:03am
To help educate us all, could you share any details about the "closed loop" system you refer to? Also there is an alternative system using a gel of some kind. Any details about that also would be helpful.
Dan C.
Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on August 16, 2010 at 10:21pm
Many of the knowledgeable people I know are counting on closed-loop systems to be a major answer to the water complaints we are up against. It is unfortunate and sad that even when the gas companies try to use a more environmentally safe method, it is being ruined by complaints just for the sake of complaining. Certainly there was no purpose to moving all that water in the above WV circumstance. It almost seems that the whole point is to force problems to happen, thereby "proving" that drilling is unsafe. This is what we are up against. After all, the anti-drill crowd is quite open about the fact that their ultimate goal is to STOP all drilling, everywhere.
Comment by sue a warner on August 12, 2010 at 3:53pm
Dont know about Greene County- but in bradford county there are issues with all haulers-not just water. I remember when logging in PA was very strong (10yrs ago)- it ate up those roads(secondary) , and traffic was almost as bad. On the bright side- PA never really had decent secondary roads before the gas industry. At least PA will get real roads when they rebuild.

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