Tracking Frack Wastewater “Cradle to Grave”

“Tracking Fracking Water Goes High-Tech”

ARTICLE by Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A worker connects a hose to a truck to collect foam from a drill pit used in a Rice Energy Marcellus Shale drilling rig in Lone Pine, Washington County. The foam is created by combining soap, air and water, and is used to flush out drill cuttings to the surface. Once in the drill pit, it breaks down again into soap and water. The water is then taken to a disposal facility for treatment.

Water, as much as natural gas, is the lifeblood of the Marcellus Shale play. Drillers need millions of gallons of water to flush the gas out of its hiding spot, deep below ground. Water is hauled by truck, imported by pipeline, collected on-site by retention impoundments and spirited away to a treatment or disposal facility once the fracking fluid has been spent. Not only do drillers need a lot of water, they also need a very specific amount of water — per week, per day, even per hour.
So how do they track all that water?
Increasingly, by computers, using a complex network of software, GPS devices and electronic manifests. The more transport and trucking companies that adopt such real-time tracking technologies, the less chance of a rogue hauler taking wastewater where he’s not supposed to or dumping it in a river.
That’s what’s alleged to have happened between 2003 and 2009. In March, Robert A. Shipman was arraigned on charges related to illegal dumping by his company, Allan’s Waste Water Services Inc. of Greene County, and related companies. In all, Mr. Shipman and his company face 175 criminal charges, as recommended by a grand jury.
If drilling companies contracted with only those haulers who use GPS tracking technology, that might not have happened, said Brian J. Bagb

“Water is obviously a huge issue,” both practically and politically, said Mr. Bagby, executive vice president of development and marketing for H20 Resources. It’s a practical issue, in that extracting natural gas from the below-ground rock formations requires millions of gallons of water; and a political one, because politicians and environmentalists worry about the damage that drilling may do to streams and water supplies.
H20 Resources, based in Cranberry, sells its Water TRAC tracking system to drilling and hauling companies.
A single driller might subcontract its water delivery and wastewater hauling work to four, five, even a half-dozen hauling companies. Each of those trucking crews might be operating several trucks, and each of those drivers might make several trips a day. And each trip requires haulers to sign in, sign out, submit a bill-of-lading, read a meter and otherwise track their own whereabouts.
Companies must also report how much water they are withdrawing from a creek by pipeline — especially in sensitive areas such as the Delaware and Chesapeake basins — or how much fracking waste they are delivering to a disposal facilit

“Paperwork is error-prone. It’s slow … it’s an administrative mess,” Mr. Bagby said. “We can do it in an hour — paperwork that used to take 40 hours

The main selling point of Water TRAC (and its sister technology, Frac TRAC) is that it cuts down on paperwork by using GPS trackers and other forms of wireless communication to monitor water usage, according to Mr. Bagby. For example, if a driller in the Marcellus Shale is limited to 1 million gallons of water withdrawal a day from a given waterway, the Water TRAC software and hardware would alert the driller if it was nearing its usage cap for the day. The sensor system also tracks data from pipelines, pits and work tanks.
Mr. Bagby and his partners began billing for Water TRAC services in April 2010, and collected less than $500,000 in sales last year. They have less than a half-dozen clients.
One of those clients is Citrus Energy, a Colorado oil and gas driller that is now active in the regional Marcellus Shale play, producing natural gas in Wyoming County at a few wells a month. The company uses more than 6 million gallons of water a month.
“It’s a huge operation to do the water movement that we do,” said Randy Holt, engineering and operations manager at Citrus’ Appalachian division. Tracking water flow and usage from river to pipeline to well to truck “is a huge manpower-type need for all of us companies out here. Some of these companies aren’t quite staffed for this type of need.”
So they subcontract to companies that do have the manpower and the expertise. In some cases, that means partnering with a company like H20 Resources, which will then outfit the hauling trucks with equipment and install hardware at other points along the line. In other cases, the larger pipeline and trucking companies already have invested in their own tracking suites.
“A lot of these companies began making these investments years ago,” said Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources, one of the largest drillers in the state. Major environmental services and hauling companies, such as EAP Industries of Atlasburg, Washington County, have already outfitted all of their trucks with GPS trackers.
One of the largest regional waste disposal firms, handling both liquid and solid well site waste (and other wastes), is MAX Environmental Technologies of Pittsburgh. CEO Bill Spencer said he remembered when, back in the 1980s, it wasn’t unusual to learn that drivers were dumping waste illegally. In fact, he recalls being part of a “spy” operation in which subcontractor truckers were followed to see where they were dumping waste.
“It was relatively common,” he said. “They just weren’t regulating.”
Today, he said, it’s different, thanks to improved tracking on the part of haulers and processors, as well as improved regulatory oversight — the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency broad discretion in how water and waste was handled in an industrial setting, and that act was amended and strengthened several times in the 1980s.
Mr. Spencer’s company, which owns the landfills and the liquid waste processing plants, relies on subcontracted trucking firms to do its hauling. Any time one of the trucks leaves a well site or arrives at one of MAX’s disposal facilities, electronic manifests are filled out in triplicate, and electronically, with e-records sent to the transporter, the water treatment plant receiving the waste and the Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s effective paperwork,” he said. “It tracks waste, cradle to grave.”


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