GE has demonstrated technology aimed at addressing one of the biggest challenges with fracking: water pollution.
>Concerns about water pollution and other environmental issues related to fracking have led some places, including France and New York State, to block the process. As fracking increases in dry areas and places that lack adequate treatment and disposal options, pressure to block it could grow.
“Water-treatment technology is going to become more and more critical as the industry moves forward,” says Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director of energy and sustainability at the University of California at Davis, and a new member of a GE environmental advisory board. She says the continued use of fracking depends on the “industry getting its act together to do it in an environmentally sustainable way.”
Better water-treatment options could change the way oil and gas producers operate by making it economical to treat water at fracking sites instead of trucking it long distances to large water-treatment facilities or disposal wells. The technology is specifically targeted to places such as the Marcellus shale, one of the largest sources of shale gas in the U.S., where wastewater is far too salty for existing on-site treatment options (see “Can Fracking Be Cleaned Up?” and “Using Ozone to Clean Up Fracking”).
Each fracking well can require two to five million gallons of fresh water, which is pumped underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release trapped oil and gas. Much of that water flows back out, carrying with it the toxic chemicals used to aid the fracking process, as well as toxic materials flushed from the fractured rock.
Producers currently reuse much of that water, but that involves first storing it in artificial ponds, which can leak, and then diluting it, a step that consumes millions of gallons of fresh water. Eventually they can’t reuse the water any more so they need to ship it, often over long distances, to specialized treatment and disposal locations. Transporting the wastewater is expensive, and it comes with a risk of spills. At disposal sites, the wastewater is injected deep underground in a process that can cause earthquakes.
The new technology would make it unnecessary to dilute the wastewater, or transport it for treatment or disposal. […]<
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