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New fracking water treatment launched

26th June 2012

Company which specialises in fluid management for oil and gas, partners with Texas-based companies to construct its equipment as well as new LNG facility

Company hopes new technology could recover and reuse contaminants used in hydraulic fracturing

US coal and natural gas producer, Consol Energy has invested USD 500,000 in a start-up company that uses solar power to purify water.

The company believes the investment in Epiphany Solar Water Systems will go some way to cleaning up the water used in natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale as well as boost the reputation of the hydraulic fracturing industry.

Consol's investment will fund Epiphany's technology in a pilot system meant to purify wastewater left over from natural gas extraction and to separate out the contaminating salt and metals. The contaminants can be recovered and repurposed, with salt, for example, being suitable for use on roads or for water softening.

Starting in July, Epiphany will conduct two to three months of testing at a well in Greene County, US. The companies expect to release results in September.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost one third of the water pumped into the ground as part of the process of releasing natural gas returns to the surface as flowback and contains metals, naturally occurring radioactive materials and other dangerous contaminants.

A number of businesses in Western Pennsylvania are developing processes to treat water at the Marcellus Shale drilling site. The companies believe the Epiphany technology is the first effort to draw on solar power for the purposes of water purification. The two companies expect this new process to reduce the costs of fracking and to curb waste by more than 90 per cent. The impact will be huge for Consol, which handles 35 to 36 billion gallons of water per year.

The technology uses energy from the sun to heat up a nontoxic thermal fluid, which in turn separates the wastewater from the salt and metals in three outward streams. The distillation process involves bio-filtration units designed by PMC Biotec, a company.