The practice of hydraulic drilling – which has caused PR tremors for ExxonMobil and XTO Energy – contaminates close to 4 billion gallons of water during drilling per day industrywide, says HBC Systems. This practice, also known as fracturing or “fracking” to access gas shale deposits, drove HBC to develop an environmentally-friendly water reclamation process that uses osmosis technology to recycle wastewater in the oil and gas industry.
Claimed as the first energy-efficient system for recycling the millions of gallons of fresh water used daily in the oil and gas drilling process, HBC’s Bear Creek Green Machine is expected to eliminate the transport and disposal of contaminated reserve pit water and reduce the need for gas drillers to source and transport additional fresh water to the well site. This translates into less damage to the environment and lower costs by eliminating the high carbon footprint of drill water disposal and transportation, says the company.
HBC Systems, a newly created joint venture between Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI) and Bear Creek Services (BCS), incorporates HTI’s proprietary forward osmosis membrane technology into a portable and scalable oil field wastewater reclamation system.
According to HBC, the new system will save drillers millions of dollars in water and transportation costs. The system will reclaim more than 125,000 gallons of reserve pit waste using less than 20 gallons of diesel fuel according to field tests, which traditionally would have required 20 truckloads to distant disposal wells for underground injection. The new system also will save almost 1 million gallons of water per well according to estimates, reducing travel by heavy diesel water trucks on the highways by as much as 150 loads per well.
The initial market test in 2009 at the Haynesville Shale in northern Louisiana and east Texas primarily for the reclamation of reserve pit water left behind from the drilling process for natural gas indicates that the Green Machine mobile units are ready for full-scale implementation nationwide, according to the company.
The mobile units process wastewater at rates in excess of 100 gallons per minute. With two machines fully operational and five more under construction, HBC Systems plans to deploy additional units to other markets such as the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from Virginia to New York, and the Barnett Shale in Texas.
Meanwhile, executives of ExxonMobil and XTO Energy say they do not object to revealing what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing, a technique used to access oil and gas trapped in hard-to-reach shale formations, but they do object to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) being in charge of regulating the process, reports BNET.
Their level of mistrust of the EPA was indicated at a recent Webcast during a congressional hearing on Exxon’s acquisition of oil and gas producer XTO Energy, which quickly turned into a discussion on hydraulic fracking and legislation that would end an exemption for the process under the Safe Water Drinking Act, reports BNET.
The reason for the discussion could be a clause in the acquisition deal that says Exxon could walk away from the deal if Congress made any changes to the law that makes hydraulic fracking illegal or commercially impracticable, reports BNET.
Hydraulic fracturing, the technology that has opened shale gas deposits across the country to profitable drilling, continues to be exempt from the U.S.’s safe drinking water law because of a loophole — called the Halliburton loophole — included in the 2005 energy bill, according to EARTHWORKS.
The industry is worried that the EPA will take regulatory steps that would either ban the practice or make it too expensive to drill, reports BNET.