|Energy industry works to recycle hydro-fracking waste water
Billions of gallons of fresh water are consumed annually by natural gas wells that employ hydraulic fracturing to force underground rock formations to yield up gas trapped within. Fracking, as it’s known, is causing a boom in domestic energy exploration. It’s also raising environmental concerns about, among other things, the way it takes in fresh water from lakes, rivers, aquifers and municipal drinking water systems, and puts out water so contaminated with salt, heavy metals and other pollutants that it can’t be reused for drinking, irrigation, fracking or anything else and must be disposed of through deep injection wells.
Energy executives fear that without addressing environmental concerns, fracking could be headed for a rapid demise. “France and Belgium have permanently banned it,” says Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Oil & Gas, an independent exploration and production company located in Irving, Texas. “And it has everything to do with water.”
Two major water issues concern critics. “One is the chemicals that go down the well and the fear that they will contaminate ground water,” said Faulkner. “The other is the water that comes back up.” To address the first, companies like Breitling are trying to come up with new formulations of fracking chemicals that won’t pose the risk of harming the environment. Companies that treat water from fracking operations to make it reusable are now seeing their own boom, as energy producers try to reduce the costs and environmental impact of existing ways of handling water generated from fracking.
Recycling water from fracked wells makes sense on several levels, according to Warren Sumner, CEO of Omni Water Solutions, an Austin, Texas, company that has developed a system to recycle the water. “Today the practice of disposing of water typically involves trucking it to a disposal well,” Sumner said. “There’s a lot of cost and collateral damage from that trucking process.” ...read more
Analysis of recent disasters shows vast majority of debris unrecycled
When a disaster such as a hurricane, fire, flood or tornado strikes, a community may be confronted with well over a year’s worth of debris to manage in a matter of hours. At the time the Northridge earthquake hit Los Angeles in 1994, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said a single local company processed 150 tons of construction and demolition (C&D) materials daily. After the earthquake, the city picked up as much as 10,000 tons of C&D materials per day. Ultimately, the disaster generated 7 million cu. yds. of debris.
Other disasters keep pace. The EPA said Hurricane Iniki in September 1992 created 5 million cu. yds. of debris in Kauai, Hawaii. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, faced 2 million cu. yds. of green materials after Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. In 1991 in Florida, Hurricane Andrew generated 43 million cu. yds. of disaster debris just in Metro-Dade County. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 reportedly churned out 50 million tons wood debris alone.
Recycling debris offers potential benefits, from saving money and space compared to landfill disposal to generating energy and reducing pollution compared to open burning, which are the usual methods. The EPA noted that green materials such as trees and shrubs can be recycled into compost or mulch, concrete and asphalt can be crushed and used for road building, metal can be recycled by scrap metal dealers, brick can be sold intact for reuse or ground for landscaping applications and dirt left as sediment can be used in agriculture or as landfill cover. ...read more