Wednesday, April 22, 2009

City of Clinton to treat wastewater from gas-production sites

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Clinton To Begin Treating Water From Gas Drilling

By Rob Moritz
LITTLE ROCK — Within two months, Clinton in north-central Arkansas hopes to begin treating water used in the natural gas drilling process, Mayor Roger Rorie said Tuesday.

Rorie said the city has reached agreements with four companies drilling for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale play to treat the water they use, avoiding the need to store the water on so-called land farms or inject it deep into the earth.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said Monday tests found evidence of environmental contamination in 11 permitted land farms across north-central and western Arkansas. Four of those sites are located within the Fayetteville Shale formation.

"The average citizen doesn't have any idea how much water is used by one of these companies for gas drilling," Rorie said Tuesday, adding that a small drilling site may use 5 million gallons of water, while a large site may use up to 15 million gallons.

Rorie scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Wednesday to announce agreements with Chesapeake Energy, Petrohawk Energy Corp., Southwestern Energy Co. and XTO Energy.

Department spokesman Aaron Sadler said state environmental experts have met with Clinton officials and support the plan.

"It's probably a good thing," he said. "If everything can be recycled in a safe manner, then we see this as a big benefit to the environment. It keeps (wastewater) out of land farms and gets rid of a waste stream."

The water will be recycled in an idle sewer treatment plant the city built specifically for processing waste from the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant. The plant closed in October.

Rorie said Siemens Water Technologies, an international company that already recycles water used by offshore oil rigs, is helping provide some of the technical expertise and equipment for the process.

The initial goal is to recycle 630,000 gallons of water a day at the site, with gas companies bringing their used water to the plant in 42-gallon barrels.

"We want a closed loop system where they can take the water back and use it again," he said.

Rorie said he hopes to eventually eliminate the need to store contaminated water on or beneath earth's surface where used drilling water is stored until the chlorides and other chemicals settle and it can be used for irrigation.

"We know this is going to be profitable," he said, adding he did not know exactly how much money the city would make recycling the water. "We do expect a real return ... yes, the city is going to make money, but our number one objective is to clean this water up."

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