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Ohio Utica Shale

Chesapeake unveils system to recycle waste water from ‘fracking’ drill sites

By admin Published: February 9, 2012

CARROLLTON: Chesapeake Energy Corp. on Wednesday unveiled a new system to treat briny and muddy wastewater from its drilling operations in eastern Ohio.


The system can handle 250 to 300 42-gallon barrels of waste an hour, said General Manager Chris Foreman of Rettew Flowback Inc., the Pennsylvania company that designed and is running the water-treatment operation for Chesapeake.


Recycling wastewater means Chesapeake can dramatically cut the volume of brine going to Ohio’s injection wells for disposal and, if it reuses the treated water, the volume of fresh water needed for subsequent drilling.


The water recovery system is the first of its kind in Ohio. It also fits into Chesapeake’s Aqua Renew water-recycling program, which got under way in 2006, officials said.


Such water treatment is not required in Ohio, but it “makes a lot of sense,” said Keith Fuller, Chesapeake Energy’s director of corporate development. “It’s the trend in this industry.”


The new filtering system is off state Route 39 east of Carrollton in Carroll County. It has been operating for about a month, handling Chesapeake’s liquid wastes from drilling for natural gas, oil and so-called wet gases like ethane, propane and butane, in eastern Ohio, said Ryan Dean, Chesapeake’s manager of corporate development.


The system relies on chemical treatment and two filters to make 95 percent of the wastewater clean enough to be reused, Foreman said. The other 5 percent is sludge shipped to a landfill for disposal.


Rettew Flowback has hired 15 local full-time workers and opened a Canton office, Foreman said. The plant is operating 16 hours a day, seven days a week.


The treatment site’s tanks can hold up to 13,000 barrels on the Carroll County property.


They are next to a natural gas production well that Chesapeake drilled. Additional wells might be drilled at the site, Chesapeake officials said.


The system relies on a proprietary chemical to help clarify the water. The liquid also is filtered twice — with 20-micron and 5-micron filters, Foreman said.


 He said several other companies offer similar services.


 More stations likely


Chesapeake plans additional water treatment stations in eastern Ohio as its drilling operations expand, Fuller said, but the company could not say how many.


The new system means Chesapeake needs less fresh water to hydraulically fracture, or “frack,” the Utica shale that lies under the eastern half of Ohio, he said. Recycled water will be mixed with fresh water for future fracking operations.


Chesapeake requires about 5.8 million gallons of water to fracture the average well, plus sand and toxic chemicals. About 10 percent of that liquid must be pumped from the well and handled safely before production can begin. Additional wastewater comes from the well over time.


The company has estimated that water recycling in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania saved it $6 million a year.


Chesapeake has seven drilling rigs in Ohio and one in western Pennsylvania. It expects to have 20 rigs in Ohio by late 2012 and 30 by 2014.


Less liquid waste


Recycling the water means Chesapeake also generates less liquid waste that must be disposed of via Ohio’s 177 injection wells, Fuller said.


One injection well outside Youngstown has been shut down as investigators look into a dozen small earthquakes that have hit Mahoning County since last March.


Ohio’s injection wells are handling much of the liquid drilling waste from not only Ohio, but also Pennsylvania and other states.


Pennsylvania has few injection wells and such shipments cannot be blocked under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.


In a related development, Chesapeake said its pre-drilling surveys have detected potentially troublesome levels of methane gas in drinking water in Plain and Osnaburg townships in Stark County. Evidence of the problem was also detected in Pike and Sandy townships.


The company has notified the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Health about the potential problem.


Depending on methane levels, homeowners may want to ventilate their well water so the potentially explosive gas can safely escape and not create problems, Fuller said.


The high methane levels were found in tests that a Chesapeake contractor conducted before any drilling took place.


Similar problems turned up in Carroll County and have been found in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the company said.


Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.

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