Technology to Create New Water Source for Marcellus Operators

Acid Mine Drainage

Acid mine drainage water coats stream beds and kills aquatic plants, making it difficult for aquatic wildlife such as fish to live in the stream, Ontiveros said. Mine waste water from abandoned and even active sites can fill up underground spaces, allowing the metal and sulfate to leach from the mine into the water. Depending on the level of rain and snow melt, the acid mine drainage water will flow out of the ground at different locations. This water flowing to the surface presents a large problem across Pennsylvania, Lane said.

Acid mine drainage streams are found through the state, but are concentrated mostly in southwestern Pennsylvania and into West Virginia. According to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Abandoned Mine Lands Inventory System, approximately 504 sites exist across Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Remediation costs for the sites are estimated $3.8 billion.

Factors taken into account when selecting a technology include shale characteristics and total dissolved solids. Providers of chemical fluids are pushing oil and gas operators to work with increasingly lower quality of water, but contaminants in lower quality water can cause problems in well performance. Winner’s technology is targeted to remove sulfates down to much lower levels than other technologies, Lane noted.

While acid mine drainage is specific to the Marcellus, produced water solutions are applicable across all shale plays. A number of different technologies will be needed to handle the varying level of components found across U.S. shale plays, including barium, as well as the end use of the water. Some examples of these technologies include simple filtration units to extreme, costly measures such as evaporating water and removing salt, said Ontiveros, who previously served as vice president and operations manager of Battelle’s energy, environment and material sciences global business. 

The Hydro Flex technology developed by Battelle was initially used to remove chromium from wastewater at U.S. Air Force bases. In 2008, the CEO of Winner Global LLC met the CEO of Battelle on an airplane. Winner discussed with then Battelle CEO Carl Kohrt about the problems with acid mine drainage in Pennsylvania. Battelle’s CEO went back to his staff and asked what kind of technologies might help Winner.

During a 3-month trial period, the technology was used to treat 1 million gallons of water; tests showed that the technology had removed enough sulfates and metals so that it was at near-potable levels.

Use of the technology to treat acid mine drainage did not get off the ground until the Marcellus shale play began heating up. Ontiveros said Winner and Battelle officials recognized that the heavy usage of water in shale exploration and production had created a market opportunity for this technology.

The company will also target the Utica shale play, which is still in its infancy, said Ontiveros. The state does have some abandoned mines, but has not had as much of an issue over water usage due to lower drilling activity in Ohio versus Pennsylvania. The company will initially focus on oil and gas, but will look to expand its services to other industries, including agricultural waste treatment, as its business grows.


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