With a Pennsylvania regulation becoming law that prevents the discharge of incompletely treated hydrofracturing (frac) water from natural gas drilling into area rivers, Altela Inc., a water treatment company based in Albuquerque, N.M., has begun implementation of the solution to the frac water problem at a plant in Williamsport, Pa., by treating 100,000 gallons a day of frac water to better-than-drinking-water standards. This successfully treated water can be used again for hydrofracturing, or put into our rivers with no harmful effects to people or wildlife.

“The treatment of Marcellus Shale flowback frac water in Pennsylvania has successfully begun,” says Altela CEO Ned Godshall.

Under the new regulation, natural gas drilling companies will no longer be permitted to take frac wastewater to facilities throughout Pennsylvania that failed to properly remove salt and other contaminates before releasing the water into rivers. The regulation comes after authorities discovered high levels of bromide, other harmful chemicals and total dissolved solids (TDS) in river water sampling.  The new Altela technology in Williamsport, at Clean Streams LLC, successfully removes salts and contaminants to safe standards, according to state and federal officials.

“With 4 million gallons of water generated from a single natural gas well, it’s imperative water treatment plants find a safe and effective way to treat frac water,” says Altela CEO Ned Godshall. Godshall, who grew up in central Pennsylvania, views the state’s ability to properly treat its frac water as paramount to the success of the natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Thousands of jobs are at risk if natural gas companies in Pennsylvania cannot meet regulations. A study by Penn State estimated more than 215,000 jobs with an average salary of $79,184 would be created by natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania by 2015, if the industry can thrive.

Altela’s technology treats water by mimicking mother nature’s process of making rain The mechanics are simple – each AltelaRain tower is composed of two chambers. Steam and ambient temperature air, taken from a heat stream or waste heat, circulate throughout the two chambers. As brackish water enters one chamber, it evaporates by passing through the steam. The water’s contaminants fall to the bottom and exit the chamber. Next, dry air is pumped into the bottom of chamber, which carries the evaporated water molecules into the other chamber. From there, the water is condensed into clean water droplets. As the water condenses, it becomes colder, and emits heat that re-enters the other chamber and evaporates the brackish water.