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article imageOp-Ed: Chemical-laden fracking wastewater breakthrough, says DOE, maybe

By Lynn Herrmann     May 5, 2011 in Politics
Washington - After a recently released Congressional report revealed companies involved in the controversial hydraulic fracturing process are using toxic and carcinogenic agents, the Department of Energy states a “novel” water cleaning technology is in the works.
The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) issued a news release late last week stating ABSMaterials has developed a new technology, thanks to funding from the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research Program, that has been shown to clean some chemicals from fracking wastewater, or as NETL describes it, "flow back water and produced water."
Osorb®, ABSMaterials' technology, uses swelling glass to clean the fracking wastewater. NETL, the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) research lab, states that
Approximately 21 billion barrels of produced water, containing a wide variety of hydrocarbons and other chemicals, are generated each year in the United States from nearly one million wells.
This “wide variety of hydrocarbons and other chemicals” includes, as a recently released Congressional report, covered by Digital Journal, notes, known toxic and carcinogenic agents such as lead, benzene, methanol, ethylene glycol, naphthalene, formaldehyde, diesel, acetaldehyde, nitrilotriacetic acid, 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), and ethylene oxide, among others.
According to NETL, Osorb®
will improve management of water resources, water usage, and water treatment during oil and gas exploration and production.
ABSMaterials has built two of these water treatment systems to date. The first, a non-regenerating skid-mounted system capable of handling inputs of up to four gallons per minute, presumably for low-volume frack wells.
The second, a 60-gallon-per-minute trailer-mounted system includes a mechanism for Osorb® regeneration. According to the news release, these units have been used on “numerous water samples,” including flow back water from the Marcellus, Woodford, and Haynesville shale formations and on produced water from the Clinton and Bakken formations.
An unidentified “major oil services company” has, NETL states, conducted a full pilot field test using fracking wastewater, or in government jargon, produced water, from the Clinton formation last July and this past March, with the tests showing
that total petroleum hydrocarbon levels were slashed from 227 milligrams per liter to 0.1 milligrams per liter.
As a result, commercial interest has been shown by “several global energy companies” for future collaborations. ABSMaterials also plans to have ready by mid-2011 a 72,000-gallons-per-day, or 50 gallon-per-minute, water purification system available for field use in North America.
Since there has been much publicity recently, all of it bad, over the issue of hydraulic fracturing, it stands to reason a glowing report on the process would eventually surface. Nevertheless, the government press release referred to above still raises some serious questions.
After repeated attempts by Digital Journal to illicit a response from FE’s office of communications, the following questions regarding statements, or non-statements, in the press release remain unanswered.
How long has ABSMaterials been working on the Osorb® technology?
Who conducted "independent" testing of the skid-mounted system, and are those test results available?
Who is the “major oil services company” that conducted tests showing “total petroleum hydrocarbon levels” were cut from 227 milligrams per liter to 0.1 milligrams per liter?
Is there a copy of these field test results?
Those unanswered questions by NETL would obviously lead to other questions equally, if not more, important in relation to content in the government news release. They are:
• How does Osorb® work in relation to the fracking industry’s proprietary and “trade secret” chemical components?
• What is the difference between fracking wastewater vs. “flow back water and produced water?
• Who are the “global energy companies” interested in the project, and what are the “future collaborative efforts?”
• As the seriousness of fracking’s assault on the environment continues, where can one find additional information on the “several other projects” to be conducted the remainder of this year?
• If field tests have been ongoing since last summer, why is this only a newsworthy government event after a recent frack well blowout in Pennsylvania and a suspension of frack well operations in Arkansas related to seismic activity?
• How did ABSMaterials qualify for funding from the Small Business Innovation Research Program, where are the program guidelines allowing a major corporation to receive SBA funding, and how much did ABSMaterials receive?
Although a carefully worded headline on the news release revealed the possibility of hope and change, the actual content warrants a close scrutiny, asking the obvious. Who is behind this one?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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