Experts talk water technology, shale

By Jamison Cocklin


In Pennsylvania, hydraulic fracturing will expend billions of gallons of water; in New York, environmentalists are concerned about development efforts and their effects on water; and in Ohio, the story is no different on either front.

One thing is clear, and often overlooked when one considers fracking: There is no shale gas without the water used with chemicals and sand to create the fissures that release the gas and its cooling effect used to temper the drilling bits.

Though other methods are being explored to frack without water, it is the most-common element used in the process.

So this is why the Youngstown State University’s Natural Gas and Water Institute lined up a series of experts on water technologies and water’s place in the fracking process in September for a seminar during the final day of the Youngstown Ohio Utica & Natural Gas Conference & Expo at the Boardman Holiday Inn.

Everything from supplying water to well sites, transporting the water, sampling water around proposed well heads, recycling fracking water and other issues was covered.

A large part of the seminar also was dedicated to offering insights on how natural-gas production companies and others can find better solutions to their water problems.

“At the moment, without water, there is no gas in any shale formations,” said Karl Kyriss, president of Aqua Capital Ventures, a unit of Aqua America, a Pennsylvania-based water-utility company. “There’s a lot of problems involved in getting water to these well sites.”

Kyriss said the 25-ton trucks used to transport water from supply sites create a “logistical nightmare” for both operating companies and those living around the drilling pads and water.

A typical well, he said, requires 5 million gallons of water, which means about 1,000 trucks are required to get it there.

Furthermore, water is often pumped with hoses from streams and rivers, posing an environmental problem and stoking criticism from those opposed to the fracking process.

Kyriss’ company is busy making plans to establish more water-supply lines to cut back on the trucks needed to get water to well sites. One such pipeline eventually will run through Mahoning and Trumbull counties and represent a $24 million investment.

Robert Valli, a principal with Pittsburgh-based Civil and Environmental Consultants, conducts environmental investigations and cleanups.

He was on hand to give proper methods for collecting pre-drilling water samples around well sites.

In Ohio, pre-drilling samples are required within a radius of 1,500 feet of the well head.

Valli said when companies fail to collect proper samples, it often leaves them vulnerable to complaints from landowners at a later date.

Without proper testing before a well is drilled, there is no way to know what effects the fracking process has on groundwater and surface water.

“We sometimes find wells that no one even knows about,” Valli said. “There is no data, and therefore it’s impossible to make a proper assessment of what kinds of effects the drilling process has had on water in the area. It’s extremely important to get enough consistent information so that we know why an incident has occurred with area water.”

Stephen Hughes, of consulting firm Tetra Tech, said not all the water used in the fracking process can be recycled, either.

“In the future, you have to find better ways to use, reuse and recycle the water supplies,” he said. “Without that capability, you cannot truly generate a beneficial product.”

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