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DOE says novel water cleaning technology could lessen environmental impacts from shale gas production

A novel water cleaning technology currently being tested in field demonstrations could help significantly reduce potential environmental impacts from producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale and other geologic formations, according to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

ABSMaterial’s Osorb technology, which uses swelling glass to remove impurities, has been shown to clean flow-back water and produced water from hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells. Produced waters are by far the largest volume byproduct associated with oil and gas exploration and production. Approximately 21 billion barrels of produced water, containing a wide variety of hydrocarbons and other chemicals, are generated each year in the United States from nearly one million wells.

Two pilot-scale Osorb-based water treatment systems have been built to date: a non-regenerating skid-mounted system which handles inputs of up to 4 gallons per minute, and a 60-gallon-per-minute trailer-mounted system that included a mechanism for Osorb regeneration. ABSMaterials has used these systems on numerous water samples including flow back water from the Marcellus, Woodford, and Haynesville shale formations and produced water from the Clinton and Bakken formations.

In independent testing, the skid-mounted system was found to remove more than 99% of oil and grease, more than 90% of dissolved BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes), and significant amounts of production chemicals. Concurrent testing was performed using the trailer-mounted 60-gallon-per-minute system on produced water streams. One major oil services company conducted a full pilot test in the field using produced water from the Clinton formation in Ohio in July 2010 and March 2011. These tests showed that total petroleum hydrocarbon levels were slashed from 227 milligrams per liter to 0.1 milligrams per liter.

The results of this project have led to commercial interest from several global energy companies and future collaborative efforts. ABSMaterials also plans to deploy a trailer-mounted, 72,000-gallons-per-day water purification system for field use in North America in mid 2011.

A number of existing treatment techniques separate dispersed oils from water, taking advantage of the density difference between oil and water. However, very few technologies effectively address dissolved hydrocarbons, slicking agents, and polymers that prevent flow-back water from being recycled or discharged.

Osorb rapidly swells up to eight times its dried volume upon exposure to non-polar liquids. The swelling process is completely reversible—with no loss in swelling behavior even after repeated use—when absorbed species are evaporated by heating the material.

The ABSMaterials project was funded through the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. It is the second project under FE’s Oil and Natural Gas Program to show significant success treating produced or flow-back water. Several other projects will be conducting demonstrations focusing on other water treatment technologies during the remainder of fiscal year 2011.



This could be good news if ever implemented on a wide scale. However, since it is going to cost more than dumping polluted wastes into ponds or nearby streams or local nearby town waste water treatment system etc very few such systems will be effectively used. Maximized profit is the driver, not environment.


Without a law that says they have to clean up, they will not. This costs money and bites into profits so it will not be used unless they are forced by law, then they will complain about big government interference in the free market.


Right on SJC.


You realize that if they did not attempt to maximize profits they would be liable to the shareholders for not fulfilling their fiduciary duties.. like gold plating the faucets in all the bathrooms.


Fracking clever.


How about paying for real damages as in a liability like the good old days. When you pollute, you pay fines and then have to clean up the mess you made.

Bush told all the polluters that they did not have to fund the Super Fund, forget about all of that and make more profits by keeping the money and polluting as much as you want. Now there is a free market.


It astounds me that these companies are allowed to inject pretty much any chemical they want into the ground with no consequences.


A 2005 law exempted natural gas drilling from many of the EPA clean water over sight. When you are interested in supply side, other considerations are over looked.


Allen...they are injecting 750+ various chemicals of which 39 are well known cancer provoking candidates. Shale gas operations, if continued uncontrolled, may become one of the worst man made pollution source. Make areas may never be the same again.

It is amazing what damage we are prepared to do to realize quick profits.

Drill baby drill and never mind the consequences.


Remember the old saying? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It is cheaper to NOT cause the damage than to clean it up.


The other saying is "dilution is not the solution to pollution". Once it is in the environment the damage has been done.

Stan Peterson

It is a constant source of amusement to find the ready and useless opinions by people weho have never worked in private business.

The ready economic justification for this recycling technology, is providing the limiting factor in Shale gas production, copious amounts of water. Plus the concentrated effluent is not worthless. It is a valuable source of specific organic chemicals that can readily be re-used by these firms.

Learn some real world economics before you spout off with your dreary, marxist, eco-babble. Y'all seem to want CO2 sequestration, but you don't see that this technology makes it more possible too. Why do you assume "fracking" rock to create CO2 disposal formations, does not have the very same problems that this technology helps solve?

Why you would want to do so only an eco-Druid would know since the World needs more atmospheric Co2 to remedy the limiting greowth factor retarding plant kingdom growth.

Fact: Our Air and Water is approaching pristene cleanliness, and we are a mixed and free economic environment. There is not a single marxist polity anywhere in the world that is not a major pollution cesspool, and a producer of all kinds of human and eco-misery.



Take a hike, I do not know of anyone that wants your comments.

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