Impacts of recycling efforts
BY STACI WILSON
That’s the number of water trucks the recycling efforts of the flowback associated with natural gas drilling by Comtech Industries, Inc., took off the road last year in Susquehanna County.
Terry Bricker, vice president of field operations, discussed theWashington,Pa., company’s water treatment and recycling during a tour of its semi-permanent Dimock Twp. facility last week.
Bricker said Comtech is working with Cabot Oil & Gas, and other natural gas drilling companies, to lessen the amount of fresh water used in the drilling process.
With 4-5 million gallons of water needed to complete a gas well, up to 20 percent of that amount is recaptured as flowback.
Bricker said 100 percent of that flowback water is recycled to be used again in the drilling process.
“No water finds its way back to the waters of the Commonwealth,” he said.
Currently, recycled water replaces about one-quarter of the fresh water needed in the drilling process, according to Bricker.
Cabot, he said, also undertook the challenge to complete a well using nothing but recycled water. “The potential is there,” Bricker said.
In addition to limiting fresh water needs, Bricker said recycling efforts also limit the number of trucks needed for gas company fleets.
With disposal wastewater sites a considerable distance from Susquehanna County, companies would run about four times as many trucks as they do right now.
The semi-permanent site is chosen on a “hub and spoke” concept, centrally located to shorten up the runs by the water trucks and support equipment. And, it can be moved, set up and running in a completely different location within a few days.
Cabot spokesman George Stark said, “The facility, while mobile, is right in the heart of our operations. It allows us to recycle the flowback and use 100 percent of (the treated water) in new drilling.”
The water is safeguarded, logged and documented along every stop of the treatment process. Comtech’s Dimock site only accepts water from Cabot.
“Every drop of water in and out is logged in at the guard shack including the well site it came from; the truck driver; and the well site it’s going to when it head’s out. The same thing with the sludge,” Bricker said.
Bricker explained how the flowback is held in storage tanks; moves to a mix tank and then to a clarifier tank.
The “dirty” water is tested for variables and specially treated to adjust for those variables.
Bricker said the hard-pack sludge that remains is landfilled as non-hazardous waste. The sludge is also tested to verify is complies with the landfill permit conditions.
Bricker said, “100 percent of the sludge is non-hazardous. We’ve never had to landfill a hazardous material.”
In the Comtech lab, site supervisor Mark Banyas demonstrated how the mix tanks and clarifier work on a smaller scale and the testing that takes place on each sample.
Banyas said, “There are tests to adjust the water to get it to meet Comtech and Cabot’s specifications for reuse.
Water samples are also sent to certified, outside labs to back check the work done at the site, he said.
The water is tested for radiologics and technicians look for 11-13 metals in each sample. Commonly found in the water is calcium, barium and iron, Banyas said. Those are stabilized by the chemistries run by the treatment facility and the water is readied for reuse.
Bricker said, “In many ways, the process is very simple; but in many ways a lot of people can not do it because they don’t have the experience with wastewater treatment.”