You can’t frack without water; plain and simple. And you’re going to need a whole heck of a lot of it to do so. So naturally, as fracking becomes more and more prevalent in the oil and gas industry, we’re going to have to find a way to better manage our water intake.
The dire need to conserve our world’s water supply is only compounded by growing populations and the spread of industry.
With record breaking water consumption and an industry that relies heavily on the use of water, it is becoming imperative that water treatment and recycling programs be installed.
And while there are many efforts to move towards 100 percent recycled water, the treatment of fracking water proves difficult.
But it’s not impossible. Water management is becoming a big issue, especially as oil and gas production here in the U.S. continues to grow. And you can already see companies taking notice, especially in the Marcellus shale, where new technologies are starting to be employed.
Right now, your average fracked well uses about 4.4 million gallons of water, according to The Review. Aside from how much water is used in the fracking process, drillers have to haul it to the site and dispose of it correctly, which costs about 11 cents per gallon.
The ability to recycle that water would not only conserve supplies but would be a big cost saver.
The Clean-Up Crew
If we go to Arizona, and Phoenix in particular, that region of the U.S. is experiencing its worst stretch of drought in the past 100 years; many other regions can say the same thing. Phoenix also set a single-day water use record on June 30 with 420 million gallons.
That puts our problems into perspective, and it is a major reason why fracking catches so much heat.
But Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), best known as a semiconductor maker, is making strides in that region in water, of all things. With its plants in Chandler, Arizona, it is replenishing aquifers to make more water available for things like energy and electricity, both of which will double in the next 25 years.
Intel currently recycles 60 percent of its water using reverse-osmosis and is in the process of expanding treatment facilities, most notably with a $200 million upgrade that will see the water recovery rate jump to 90 percent, according to Bloomberg.
Intel’s sustainability efforts could easily be incorporated in the oil and gas industry.
Ecosphere Technologies Inc. (OTC: ESPH) is another big one to watch for. It started by treating water systems for the marine industry, but now fracking has become a big operation. Ecosphere's subsidiary, Fidelity National Environmental Solutions LLC, formerly called Ecosphere Energy Services, has treated more than 700 wells and roughly 3 billion gallons of frack fluid in the past four years, according to Business Journal. CEO Robert Cathey told Business Journal the company is operating in just about every major shale play in the U.S., and demand is only growing for its business.
Fidelity National Financial Inc. (NYSE: FNF) owns a 39 percent stake in the company with an option to stake 51 percent.
The thing that could really put Ecosphere on the map is its patented Ozonix water treatment technology. If there is an application where chemicals and water are involved, Ozinix can be used to disinfect the water.
Ozinix combines ozone with cavitation and electricity to disinfect water without the use of chemicals. It can be used on-site and can also be reused – perfect for fracking operations.
OriginOil Inc (OTC: OOIL) is another name that is cleaning up oil and gas water with its frack flowback water-cleaning technology. Like Ozinix, it too cleans water without the use of chemicals and helps lower costs.
Its first pilot unit is being used right now to remove impurities and chemicals in frack water used in the Rockies. The hope is that this pilot unit will lead to commercial success.
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Fracking, along with oil and gas, is a booming business, and demand for clean, pure, and reusable water is only going to grow.
Of the more than 30,000 oil and gas wells that are completed in the U.S. every year, each will require some way to make greater use of the water involved.
Only a tiny fraction of drillers are employing any such water treatment when they frack a well – this must change.
And it will. It will eventually be a part of every single well that is drilled and fracked, and the companies I mentioned will be there to fill the void.
Water is the very essence of life and an essential part of many industries, far beyond just oil and gas; it is prominent in agriculture, food and beverage production, mining, sewage, and on and on. They’re all going to seek out these technologies.
It’s time to treat water like the precious resource it is.
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