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As More Drillers Recycle Their Fracking Fluid, A Williamsport-Area Facility Expands

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The before, during and after of the fracking fluid recycling process

A Williamsport-area water treatment facility has gotten approval from the Department of Environmental Protection to expand its operations, as the Sun-Gazette reports:

The approval will allow additional types of liquid waste such as boring fluids and hydrostatic fluids to be recycled into treated brine water that the industry can reuse for hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, thus reducing the need for fresh water supplies and for waste disposal through injection wells or land filling, said Teresa Copenhaver, business development manager.

Boring fluids – the muddy water created during the laying of collection pipeline – and hydrostatic fluids – the result of pipeline testing – contain some solids but no chemicals, she said.

“We had asked if we could amend our general permit to take additional fluids and from there, they agreed to expand it even more,” Copenhaver said.

Recycling is becoming an increasingly-popular way of dealing with hydraulic fracturing fluid waste. Pennsylvania drillers reused 6.1 million barrels of fluid from July to December. That’s a 369 percent increase over the amount of fluid recycled during the last six months of 2010.

It’s important two keep two things in mind, when you’re talking about recycling fracking fluid: First, it doesn’t completely eliminate the need for additional water withdrawal, as only about twenty percent of the fluid drillers inject into wells returns to the surface. Secondly, recycling is more like distillation than anything else. The brine, chemicals and sand removed from the water still need to be disposed of in landfills or injection wells.

Check the StateImpact Pennsylvania website next week for a long look at how drilling waste is treated and disposed of.

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