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 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 Texas Engineering Experiment Station Food Protein R&D Center
Separation Sciences Laboratory, has developed the membrane filtration
technology that has been licensed to a major oil field service company for
Burnett and his partners have developed a lab protocol and analytical
methodology for technicians who will be field-testing and analyzing the frac
water after it has been captured and processed to determine if it is clean
enough to reuse or recycle. A pilot class recently was conducted at TEEX’s
Water and Environmental Training Laboratory on the Texas A&M Riverside
“The natural gas resources in shale are ubiquitous, and the oil and gas
industry has learned how to tap into these,” Burnett says. “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
“Water is at the center of the problem,” he adds. “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.”
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 instruments, notes
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 says.
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.
Process Could Clean Up Water Used in Natural Gas Drilling
May 1, 2010