May 14, 2012

Hydro Recovery expansion to begin in Tioga County

May 12, 2012
By CHERYL R. CLARKE - , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

BLOSSBURG - Hydro-Recovery, a natural gas frack water treatment plant here, is getting ready to begin a $15 million physical expansion, once the land development plans are complete, company officials told members of the Tioga County Development Corp. Friday.

Theresa Copenhaver and David Hedrick attended TCDC's "on the road" meeting, held at the Bloss Fire Hall, and told directors that, following the purchase of property adjacent to its facility on Old Route 15 south, it will start as soon as possible to construct a "crystalizer and six 500,000 gallon storage tanks," to better serve its customers drilling in the lucrative Marcellus Shale natural gas play.

According to Hedrick, the crystalizer will be used to make other products, such as road salt and other industrial salts from the used brine water that is no longer recyclable, in accord with a new permit being developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection to allow brine to be "de-wasted" and used to make the salt products.

"We are hoping to have that up in 12-13 months," he added.

In addition to making hydraulic stimulation fluid from recycled frack water, the company recently expanded its treatment operations to include oil and gas liquid and pipeline construction mud, as gas pipeline is going in around the region.

The Blossburg facility also is getting ready to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, "because that is what our customers want," Copenhaver said.

The plant employs 25 people, with 10 new hires, and once the new section is constructed it will hire 20 to 25 more, she said.

In addition to the expansion at the Blossburg facility, Hydro-Recovery is constructing a $10 million acid mine drainage water treatment plant in Antrim that will employ another 20 more people, Hedrick said.

Plans are to create hydro stimulation fluid from the acid mine drainage water gushing from abandoned coal mines in the hills around Blossburg. The low price gas drillers are getting for their product, around $2 per 1,000 cubic feet, is cost-prohibitive for drillers to purchase treated water when they can draw it from local fresh water sources for much less, Copenhaver said.

She added she is hopeful the price will come back up soon, making their treated acid mine drainage water more attractive to drillers.

According to Hedrick, a Susquehanna River Basin Commission rule soon may take effect will "incentivize" drillers to use water from a "disadvantages sources," such as acid mine drainage, rather than fresh water from the county's rivers and streams, by making them prove why they need to use fresh water rather than disadvantaged sources.

"Right now it is a matter of economics," Copenhaver said.

About 8 million gallons of treated acid mine drainage water will be stored in freshwater impoundments at Antrim and an additional 3 million gallons of brine at Bloss, Hedrick added, supplying the freshwater through pipelines to well sites throughout the county.

"That will help keep trucks off the road," he said.

In response to a question from borough council President Tom Bogaczyk regarding air quality testing above all the open tanks at the Blossburg plant, Hedrick said once the crystalizer goes online air quality testing will be required by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Natural Gas impact fee may provide some money for projects related to acid mine drainage, Tioga County Commissioner Roger Bunn noted, but any fee money likely will not be available until next year, Copenhaver said.