GE Unveils Mobile Evaporator for Shale Water Treatment

The boom in shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. has prompted concerns over the impact of hydraulic fracturing on local water supplies, generating the need for technology to recycle and treat flowback and produced water.

GE has introduced a mobile evaporator specifically designed to help natural gas producers recycle untreated waters that result from the hydraulic fracturing process at the well site. GE has offered thermal evaporation technology for over 40 years, but this is the first time that the technology used for the treatment of shale gas frac water has been completed mobilized.

The evaporator, which is a 50-gallon per minute, horizontal, shell and tube, forced circulation, mechanical vapor recompression system, will reduce the volume of wastewater and fresh water that needs to be hauled to and from the site.

Hydraulic fracturing increases the production rate of oil and gas wells in shale plays, but the process also uses a substantial amount of freshwater and produces billions of gallons wastewater each year.

To offset the environmental impact, GE's evaporator will treat severely impaired waters, such as frac flowback and produced water, making it possible to reuse the water in the industrial process, reduce the amount of fresh water consumed and reduce any subsequent environmental impact from discharge.

The evaporator will be used initially in North American markets such as Marcellus shale reservoirs in the Appalachian Basin, it will be used for all unconventional gas and frac water applications in regions worldwide. The first units will be available next year.

Unlike other treatment methods, thermal evaporation removes nearly all of the impurities in the water, allowing producers to easily meet the newly passed Pennsylvania discharge regulations of less than 500 total dissolved solids (TDS). Shale plays such as the Marcellus produce very high TDS frac water, have limited deep well capacity and increasingly stringent discharge regulations.

The mobile evaporator is mounted on a single trailer that will allow it to reach the most remote drilling sites. Its unique design also has been optimized for maximum energy efficiency, enabling producers to decrease transportation and disposal costs and reduce truck traffic and wear and tear on local roads.