Recycling Frac Produced and Flowback Water
By Ken Pandya
Induced Earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio! Contaminated Aquifers in Dish, Texas! Polluted Surface Waters! These statements highlight just a few of the environmental issues currently being raised concerning treatment and disposal of produced water and flowback water streams from hydraulic fracturing operations in oil and gas wells. Hydraulic fracturing operations use 4 to 5 million of gallons of water for each gas well drilled. The mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected under pressure into the gas-bearing strata, causing it to fracture, releasing the entrapped natural gas that is transported back up the well. Along with the natural gas, comes highly contaminated flowback and produced water, estimated to range from 20% to 40% of the injected volume of water. Rather than deal with the contamination, natural gas extraction operations typically load the flowback and produced water streams from their gas wells into trucks, and haul it to the nearest Class II disposal wells for injection. However, a spate of earthquakes, shortages of fresh water, and a growing number of investigations related to groundwater contamination in the areas surrounding hydraulic fracking operations has brought the disposal of such streams via deep well injection to the front page of local and national news media. Whether accurate or not, accusations of causing earthquakes and polluting ground and surface waters abound.
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