WYSOX - Williamsport-based Eureka Resources recently opened a new frack water de-wasting plant that can process up to 5,000 barrels each day of flowback and produced water from Marcellus Shale gas wells.
"We are proud to be able to take a large waste stream and turn it into basically no waste at all," Eureka CEO Dan Ertel said.
Eureka Resources' new plant takes wastewater from fracking and recycles it, disposes it or returns it to the hydrological cycle, Ertel said.
Representatives of Eureka Resources and contractors stand in front of primary clarifiers and receiving barrels through which fracking wastewater is directed as part of the treatment process. Left to right are John Stanton, Dennis Ream, Kent McManus and George Banashefski, of Eureka Resources; Frank Lundy, of Lundy Construction; Tim Butters and Dan Ertel, of Eureka Resources; Jen Lundy and Sean Hartrahft, of Lundy Construction; Tracey Keeney, of B & K Crane; John Houser, of Lundy Construction; Bill Ertel, of R & L Ertel; Oscar Perez, Bishop Brothers Construction; and Steve Thaler, of Lundy Construction.
"Unlike other wastewater treatment plants, we don't stop at pre-treatment. We do full-scale thermal treatment so we can ultimately discharge the effluent directly," Eureka Director of Engineering Jared Bodger said.
Eureka plans to build a quarter-mile pipeline to discharge some of its treated wastewater into the Susquehanna River, according to Bodger.
The state Department of Environmental Protection regulations for discharging gas well waste are stringent, Ertel said. To his knowledge, no other plant in the state has the technology needed to treat fracking wastewater to a direct discharge standard.
"You cannot make water that's consistently going to meet state standards for discharge if you're just distilling or crystallizing. You need to put another suite of
technologies together," Ertel said.
In addition to its $8 million crystallizer, Eureka also will utilize a membrane bioreactor, which removes volatile organic compounds from distilled wastewater vapor prior to discharge. The patent-pending technology was developed in consultation with engineers from Switzerland, Ertel said.
"Their technology was the most advanced and they were the first willing to let an American company utilize it," Ertel said.
Not all waste will need to undergo additional treatment beyond crystallization. About ten percent of the wastewater is processed into high-purity sodium chloride, which is used by the gas industry for winter de-icing, Bodger said.
Waste also is solidified and hauled to an approved landfill, depending on its constituents.
A gas well will produce flowback water initially after fracking and produced water continuously throughout its lifetime. Such water is regulated as a hazardous waste by the Department of Environmental Protection, in part because wastewater can comingle with geological formations that may contain naturally-occurring radioactive materials. Eureka is required to monitor each incoming truckload of wastewater for radiation.
"We have been treating this water for five years. We've had a total of two instances where we had a minor excursion from background levels (of radiation). We haven't seen any major issues," Ertel said.
The Wysox plant, designed by Williamsport-based Lundy Construction, still is under construction but has begun accepting wastewater. The facility, which currently employs 14, probably will employ 20 to 25 people after construction completes, Eureka Vice President of Operations John Stanton said.
"We intend to be a good neighbor and a steward of the environment," Ertel said.