More Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater is being Recycled

On Wednesday, September 7, 2011 0 comments

In early 2010, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection took two steps to get a better idea of water sourcing, volumes and disposal for hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus shale gas wells.

A year and a half later, results are beginning to accumulate.

Several million gallons of water are injected into a Marcellus shale well to release the gas within.

As this hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, began ramping up several years ago, public concern grew over where the water was coming from and how the flowback that returns to the surface was treated and disposed of.

In response, the WVDEP Office of Oil and Gas issued a permit addendum in January 2010 requiring operators planning to use more than about 200,000 gallons of water to detail in advance their expected volumes, sources and disposal methods.

The OOG’s primary interest, according to office Chief James Martin, was to find out how much water operators are withdrawing from where.

A global position system website that will use that information in real time is still in development, Martin said.
However, he was able to share some aggregate information on anticipated volumes and sources.

From April 2010 through August 2011 — about 17 months — gas well operators reported expecting to use about 2.1 billion gallons of surface water, 230 million gallons of purchased water and 26 million gallons of groundwater, according to the OOG database.

The report did not detail how many wells these permits represented.

Operators also reported expecting to re-use about 87 million gallons — less than 4 percent for the 17 months, a number Martin said is, in reality, far higher.

“There’s been more move toward trying to re-use and recycle as much as possible,” he said. “We weren’t expecting that in the beginning. It’s been more than I would have thought two years ago.”

Conclusions to be drawn from the numbers are limited because they are pre-use — plans could change during drilling — and also because operators are allowed two years after receiving a permit to drill or may never drill at all.

More interesting, though also incomplete, is post-use reporting that the WVDEP Division of Water and Waste Management, or DWWM, began requiring in March 2010.
“Keep in mind, once they do the fracking and they get the return water back, then at that point they have a year to report,” said DWWM Director Scott Mandirola.

“Up until the last three months or so, we didn’t have very much data at all and all of a sudden we’re starting to get reporting coming in,” Mandirola said.

So far for 2010, operators have reported withdrawing 344 million gallons in surface, purchased and groundwater to fracture wells at 38 sites, according to the DWWM database.

The number of wells at the 38 sites is not specified.

Of that water, 323 million gallons was reported injected into wells as hydraulic fracturing fluid. Chesapeake Appalachia has so far reported injecting the most in 2010, with 196 million gallons at 16 well sites. Second is Antero Resources, with 41 million gallons at five well sites.

About 31 million gallons of the injected fluid returned to the surface as flowback, or 9.5 percent of fluid injected, with companies reporting flowback rates ranging from 4.8 percent for EQT to more than 43 percent for Waco Oil and Gas Co.

In aggregate, for all wells reporting so far in 2010 and the few that are in for 2011, about three-quarters of flowback was destined for re-use — far more than gas operators anticipated in their pre-use permit addenda, as Martin suspected.

Nearly all the rest was disposed of by underground injection, with a few hundred thousand gallons going to publicly owned treatment works in Pennsylvania.

Water use will be reported more formally through new water management plans required by the emergency rule that WVDEP issued in August for Marcellus operations, Mandirola said.

And he added to Martin’s mention of a real-time GPS tracker for water withdrawals.

Operators will contact WVDEP 24 to 48 hours before beginning to withdraw, he said, and the agency will plot their withdrawal points and estimated volumes online. Operators will then notify the agency when they’re done.
“That way we will have a dynamic map of sites coming online and going offline so at any time we know how many folks are out there drawing water,” he said.

Read the original article here.


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