Three scientists are developing a new treatment for cleaning water used in shale-gas production.
Kelvin Gregory, an assistant professor of Civil and
Environmental Engineering, working in collaboration with University of
Pittsburgh engineering professors Radisav Vidic and Eric Beckman, received a $1
million grant from the Department of Energy over the next 3 years to develop a
system to improve the use of hydraulic fracturing by drilling companies.
"The boom in drilling for natural gas across northern
Pennsylvania has created a potential flood for how water is handled safely and
responsibly during the drilling process,'' says Gregory.
A huge supply of natural gas is trapped in the Marcellus
Shale layer that runs beneath northern Pennsylvania. Recent advances in
technology – like hydraulic fracturing – have enabled recovery of natural gas
from the Marcellus Shale layer. Hydraulic fracturing is used by many gas
development companies to get gas from geological structures by pumping fluids
at high pressure into the ground and fracturing subsurface rock. This water
returns to the surface as flowback – with chemicals that are potentially
harmful to the environment.
Because of environmental concerns, Gregory's team is
evaluating a holistic approach for treatment of flowback water that utilizes
acid mine drainage water to remove toxic metals from the water, and enables reuse
of hydro-fracturing fluids. Reuse of these fluids is expected to greatly
minimize the environmental risk from flowback water, and reduce the volumes of
freshwater withdrawn for hydraulic fracturing.
Already one small rural Pennsylvania town has filed a
lawsuit claiming one drilling company of violating state environmental laws by
allowing drilling chemicals to escape from gas wells, where hydraulic
fracturing is being used.
need to develop a system to minimize the disposal costs for gas producers and
make water safe for all users,'' says Gregory, who is responsible for the
development of a new remediation technology based on electrochemical cells.
Developing a System to Improve the Use of Hydraulic Fracturing
December 17, 2009