Technology to Create New Water Source for Marcellus Operators

“Reuse of water can be cost competitive when compared to alternatives such as treatment and discharge of disposal well injection, as it reduces the need to purchase or source fresh water,” Yoxtheimer noted. “The ability to reuse treated produced fluid is due in part to the recent development of fracturing mixtures that are brine tolerant.”

A review of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s 2012 records indicate that the reuse rate of flowback and produced fluids was approximately 87 percent, with 23.2 million barrels of fluids reused out of 26.8 million barrels generated. Approximately 85 percent of the recycling occurred in the field; the remaining 15 percent was treated at centralized facilities. Thirteen percent of these fluids were disposed of via Class II-D disposal wells. This may occur due to higher treatment costs or inability to reuse water due to lack of hydraulic fracturing operations in the near-term, Yoxtheimer said.

“The industry has significantly improved its fluids management by utilizing best management practices, such as lining well pads to capture spills, utilizing closed-loop drilling systems, and recycling flowback fluids,” Yoxtheimer said. “Continued improvement in fluid management practices is expected to continue as companies further refine their operations to meet environmental and regulatory challenges.”

The use of acid mine drainage water is growing slowly in the state, with a few operators using this water source. State regulators have developed guidelines to help facilitate its use; Yoxtheimer told Rigzone he expects it will be used increasingly where possible.

Liability Relief Needed to Spur Use of Acid Mine Drainage

In spite the encouragement of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), oil and gas operators in the state have not yet turned to the use of mine influenced water for gas extraction activities due to liability concerns, DEP spokesperson Morgan Wagner told Rigzone in an email statement.

“Despite the environmental benefits to using mine influenced water to hydraulically fracture wells, this practice is not likely to be adopted by the industry until there is legislatively provided liability relief for the beneficial use of mine influenced water.”

To address this issue, Senate Bill 411, which would provide “good Samaritan” liability relief, is currently working its way through the Pennsylvania Legislature. The bill, which would amend Title 27 in the state’s regulations, would limit the treatment liability of companies that choose to use acid mine water for hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells or for other industrial uses.


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