Platts: Frack water recycling a growing trend

Platts Energy Week
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Ecologix's mobile treatment system

Ecologix CEO discusses frack water recycling

Platts – Recycling of water used for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a trend that will inevitably grow as companies realize that they cannot continue to simply reinject used water and have it "never see the light of day again," the CEO of a private company pursuing that market told Platts Energy Week, an all-energy news and talk show program.

Eli Gruber, the CEO of Ecologix Environmental Systems, told Platts Energy Week that the key tipping point for now will be "if we can do it for a price that is equal to or lower than just getting rid of it, then why not?"

Gruber's company manufactures and sells what it calls the Integrated Treatment System that is a mobile unit which can be brought right to the wellhead. Its marketing page on the company's website says the system "eliminates dependency on injection wells by removing and neutralizing harmful contaminants in frac water at the well site."

Gruber was interviewed at the Platts Global Energy Forum, held in conjunction with 14th annual Platts Global Energy Awards. His company was a finalist for the Leading Technology Award for Sustainable Innovation.

"Regulations are not in place" that would discourage the disposal of fracking water, "but probably will be." But even before that, there are other considerations that producers must factor in that will push them toward recycling over disposal.

Before any other treatment costs, companies are paying for truck trips made by empty tankers that hauled frac water to a disposal well and then return to the well site. Simply eliminating that trip could save 20% of current costs, Gruber said.

Beyond that, Gruber said, there are other significant considerations that he said will favor the recycling of frac water.

First, repeatedly putting fresh water into well creates "osmotic imbalances...the clay swlls and in fact you diminish the well productivity." He noted that the recycled water his company returns to drillers does contain some salt, so that osmotic imbalance is lessened.

But the solution "must be practical," Gruber said. "It has to be competitive in price, and capital expenses and operating expenses need to be in line. It has to have a small footprint, it has to be mobile, and it has to be flexible because each well has unique water characteristics."

Although most producers now treat recycled water as if it were "garbage," Gruber said that will change. "Recycling is going to be wave of future," he said. "You have to think of it as a necessity."

Categories: North America Technology Shale Technique Drilling

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