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RES Water-Butler to open Penn Township frack water recycling facility in November

| Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Construction begins on a plant to treat fracking water along Hicks Road in Penn Township on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013.

Butler County company RES Water-Butler is set to open the Pittsburgh region's third frack water recycling facility in Penn Township.

Across the state, more than 90 percent of the water that flows back to the surface during the hydraulic fracturing process is recycled for reuse at other wells, according the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The new frack water treatment facility is set to open in November on rural Hicks Road in Penn Township, Butler County.

It will be across the road from XTO's cryogenic natural gas processing plant, which extracts liquids from the gas using extremely low temperatures. The plant went into operation in June.

“We're positioned for the producers that are going to funnel gas to that facility,” said RES Water-Butler president Andy Kicinski. “We did an independent market survey and concluded that there were enough independent producers in that area to build a facility.”

The market for frack water recycling has been on the rise since April 2011, when the DEP officially requested that water treatment facilities stop taking the water because of its high salt content.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade organization, encourages waste water recycling.

“This element of responsible development is just one of the many innovations our member companies are proud to have advanced,” said Patrick Creighton, a coalition spokesman.

Penn Township Supervisor Doug Roth said board members have few concerns about the treatment plant since the company's presentation about the facility in June.

But it's been a difficult adjustment for residents who live near the cryogenics plant, Roth said.

“We had a complaint or two about the (water) treatment plant,” Roth said. “The whole operation started to get to them — noise and a lot of truck traffic.

“Their way of life has changed dramatically.”

About 10 homes dot the 2-mile length of Hicks Road. None is on the truck route between Route 8 and the facilities' entrances.

Roth said he's surprised by what he sees as the exponential growth of the Marcellus shale industry.

“I don't really know what to think of this (industry),” he said. “It's amazing to me the amount of infrastructure with this separation plant and their pipeline.”

There are 10 other frack water recycling plants operating in the western half of the state, according to the DEP. Two others are under construction.

The $2.5 million Penn Township facility will be equipped to treat about 250,000 gallons of the chemical-laden water, which flows back to the surface during the hydraulic fracturing process.

The facility will be a concrete building equipped with floor pumps that circulate the water through the treatment process, according to company officials.

The water will be pumped into two 50,000-gallon exterior tanks that are surrounded by concrete containment walls that are 110 percent the size of what the tank can hold, officials said.

Frack water contains a number of chemicals, including boric acid, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, and sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, according to a list maintained by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The chemicals are used to reduce friction, adjust pH levels and break up the shale to release the natural gas, according to FracFocus, a national hydraulic fracturing chemical registry managed by two national organizations whose missions are conservation and environmental protection.

Violations such as spills and accidental discharges are uncommon, said DEP Southwest Region spokesman John Poister. That is mainly because the recycling process is a “closed loop” system in which the contaminated water is pumped directly into storage tanks that flow only into the treatment facility, he said.

Waste water recycling-only facilities are not permitted to discharge any of the water.

In the Alle-Kiski Valley, McCutcheon Enterprises in Allegheny Township can also treat frack water. The facility, which also treats drilling muds created by the boring process, can clean up to 185,000 gallons at a time, company spokesman Chad McCutcheon said.

“The time for processing depends on what the volume is,” he said. “It can be cleaned within a couple of hours if we get enough of it in a day.”

McCutcheon said the process reduces the environmental impact of drilling.

Some companies, such as MDS Energy of Kittanning, continue to truck flow-back water to Ohio for disposal.

“It's more difficult for us to recycle our water at this point because we don't always have (another well) to take it to,” said Michael Knapp, MDS spokesman and vice president.

The company also uses liquid nitrogen to fracture the shale, which has reduced by 80 percent to 90 percent the amount of water needed in the process, Knapp said.

“If there's a place to take it in Butler County, we would certainly take a look at it,” Knapp said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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