May 23, 2011

Frack treatment plant could be in operation as soon as Monday

By CHERYL R. CLARKE - ( ,Williamsport Sun-Gazette


BLOSSBURG - If "all goes well" and the weather cooperates, Hydro-Recovery's natural gas drilling frack water treatment and recycling facility here will open Monday, according to its Business Development Manager Teresa Copenhaver.

The project, which broke ground in October, was supposed to open last month, Copenhaver said, but the wet spring weather has delayed construction and "being able to pour concrete," at the site.

Several power outages, also weather related, created problems for construction, she added.

Once fully operational, she said, the facility hopes to save millions of gallons of fresh water every year by recycling frack water and selling it back to drillers.

Another facility at Antrim, still in the beginning construction stages, will recycle acid mine drainage for use by drillers, she said, but it may treat frack water as well.

Using what is called a "liquid to liquid ion exchange," in LLX equipment, the facility will reduce the amount of acid mine drainage water getting into waterways.

"The Susquehanna River Basin Commission is allowing us to take 500 gallons per minute, and there is also a pass-by limit, so if there is a drought, we wouldn't be allowed to take it out. Ideally it's meant to replace the need to use fresh water," she added.

The Blossburg facility also plans to buy water from the Bloss Municipal Authority, she said.

"And we have two applications s into the SRBC to take non-potable water out of two previously drilled wells. One is on-site, and the other is on old Route 15," she said.

The water from those wells is considered not suitable for drinking water because "the aquifer they drilled into did not test for drinking water standards," Copenhaver said.

Copenhaver noted water needed for use by the facility will "vary depending on water we are treating and selling to customers."

As for employees to run the facility, Copenhaver said "at this point we have hired enough people but we will be hiring additional people when we add on more shifts and are fully operational."

So far, she said seven full time employees have been hired, with that number to double.

Copenhaver said the number of tankers using the facility will be 65 to70 a day, but could be as many as 100, a fact that has some Blossburg officials concerned.

Ray Kaminski, a former borough council member who now sits on the board of the Tioga County Development Corp. representing Blossburg, said the increased truck traffic will "create a problem."

"There needs to be a traffic signal put in to handle more trucks coming into that plant, and traffic that comes in off (Route) 15 to use the Kwik Fill.

"And with the May 19 moratorium on drillers taking water to sewage treatment plants, it puts pressure on these guys to get their plant operational."

Copenhaver said PennDOT issued Hydro-Recovery a highway occupancy permit based on the estimate provided, and "they apparently didn't think a signal would be needed, at least not right away."

"But I don't know the last time a complete traffic study was done there," she said.

The facility won't run 24 hours a day in the beginning and how long it is before it does is "dependent upon our clients and their drilling schedules."

"Because we are just opening we are going to be in a ramping up speed, and by the beginning of June we expect to be at 100 percent capacity," she said.

Copenhavenr noted that the facility will "reuse and recycle every single drop of water" into a "dry filter cake," that "looks like dirt."

The cake, containing minerals, metals and suspended solids such as dirt, soda ash, barium and strontium then is taken to a regular municipal landfill.

"But it is completely landfill safe," she said.

According to Copenhaver, DEP has tested frack water and "for the most part it is not radioactive."

"The trick is when you clean it and consolidate all the materials you do it in a manner to keep it neutral and our process is designed to keep it landfill friendly and pass all DEP tests, so ours has no radioactivity. The whole mission behind this is to be environmentally friendly with the water and the land," she added.

The $12 million facility was paid for with mostly private funds, but Hydro Recovery did get a $500,000 Redevelopment Assistant Capital Project grant through Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-Brockway, and also a Northeastern Ben Franklin Technology Partners Fund low interest loan of $250,000, a competitive state venture capital program for new and innovative projects.


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