Chesapeake to Begin Recycling Water in Utica Shale Play

A spokesperson for Chesapeake Energy on Thursday confirmed that the company has started recycling water from its exploration and production activities in the Utica shale play in eastern Ohio.

The Oklahoma City-based company has been recycling produced water for some time from its operations in the Barnett and Marcellus shale acreage in north Texas and northern Pennsylvania, the spokesperson said.

According to the Beacon Journal, Pennsylvania-based Rettew Flowback Inc. has designed a design that would treat briny and muddy wastewater from drilling operations in eastern Ohio. The system can handle 250 to 300 42-gallon barrels of wastewater an hour.

The water recovery system is the first of its kind in Ohio and fits into Chesapeake's Aqua Renew program. This program was launched when the company began focusing on developing ways to conserve and reclaim water in 2006-2007.

Through this experience and its involvement in the Barnett Shale Water Conservation and Management Committee, the company reached an agreement with the city of Forth Worth, Texas to study water evaporation systems as a potential way to reduce the amount of produced water being injected into saltwater disposal wells.

Using an evaporative reduction and solidification system to capture heat generated by gas compressor stations, a portion of the produced water is filtered and reduced to water vapor. This clean vapor is released into the atmosphere; it eventually returns to the earth as rain.

"Since this preliminary reclamation project, our focus on reuse and water conservation has become a company-wide endeavor to include a variety of technologies and methods," the company said on its website.

The company treats and recycles a vast majority of the produced water from its Marcellus shale operations. Produced water from each wellsite is stored, and then filtered at central locations before being tested for blending with freshwater to ensure proper quality and quantity for reuse.

The Utica shale play has been touted by Chesapeake and other producers as the next big emerging U.S. shale play.

However, concerns over the impact of hydraulic fracturing on Ohio's water supply and environment has led to some calls for tougher drilling laws and requiring producers to disclose the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing.

In his 2012 State of the Union address earlier this week, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich acknowledged that tough environmental rules are needed to monitor shale exploration and production in Ohio.

"The biggest companies know that you need to have tough environmental rules," said Kasich. "They can't be complicated. They can't be over the top, but we need to have them because we can't have some yahoo come into the state and damage this whole industry because they're irresponsible."

However, Kasich noted that "we cannot let our fears" over hydraulic fracturing's impact on groundwater should not outweigh the potential of the state's shale gas development, which is expected to help support the state's long-term economic growth and job creation plans.

State Regulator Fines for Violations

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Thursday reported it had fined Chesapeake subsidiary Chesapeake Appalachia $565,000 in civil penalties and reimbursement costs for erosion and sediment control violations, wetland encroachment violations and an April 2011 well control incident.

The company was fined $215,000 for a March 2011 incident in West Branch Township, Potter County, where sediment discharged into a high-quality stream, or a stream that receives some of the highest protection in the state, DEP said. The sediment traveled downstream and impact Galeton Borough Authority's water treatment filters.

Chesapeake paid $190,000 to the authority to repair and upgrade the water facility, and has taken steps to address erosion issues and lack of sufficient controls in place at the Beech Flats gas well pad to prevent run-off.

The company also paid $190,000 as part of a consent order and agreement after the operator lost control of a wellhead during hydraulic fracturing on a well in Leroy Township, Bradford County, on April 19, 2011.

Chesapeake was also fined $160,000 as part of a consent order and agreement resulting from violations in 2010 of impacting a wetland and allowing sediment to enter Sugar Creek in North Towanda Township, Bradford County. In addition to paying the penalty, the company had to remove the fill from the impacted wetland and will be required to construct 2.55 acres of replacement wetlands, and submit regular, detailed wetlands restoration monitoring reports.

"The governor and I expect the highest standards to be met and when they are not, we take strong enforcement action," said DEP Secretary Mike Krancer. "We will continue to be vigilant on that front. The protection of the state's water is paramount."

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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