Exploration and Production Technologies


Development and Validation of an Acid Mine Drainage Treatment Process for Source Water Last Reviewed 1/5/2015

DE-FE00 14066

The goal of this project is to research and optimize a Floatation Liquid-Liquid Extraction (FLLX) water treatment system to process and repurpose water of lesser quality, i.e., acid mine drainage (AMD water) for use in hydraulic fracturing (HF) operations and assess the feasibility of using the system byproducts for flowback water processing. The objectives of this project are to (1) develop an innovative treatment process to support the use of AMD water for HF, (2) to evaluate the use of the (FLLX) process byproducts in flowback water treatment processes and (3) determine the environmental, regulatory, and commercial implications of using treated AMD as source water during HF.

Battelle, Columbus, OH 43201

Persistent pressure on public water resources and an increase in drought conditions in the U.S. have underscored the need for a novel technology to remediate and repurpose a non-potable water source to meet requirements for HF applications. Well injection for an HF application requires around five million gallons of fresh water. The increasing yearly demand on the public water system and the unconventional gas industry’s continued focus on reducing their environmental footprint have made producing a commercial technology capable of reducing potable water consumption essential to the continued success of unconventional resource development. The U.S. Department Of Energy is also interested in increasing the effectiveness of flowback water treatment processes because conventional water treatment technologies such as chemical treatment, filtration, reverse osmosis, distillation, etc., must be adapted to treat a range of flowback water chemistries and have disadvantages such high cost, significant energy consumption, and low efficiency.

The research under this award will be performed to optimize a 3,400-bpd water processing system to provide freshwater from AMD sources for HF. The immediate outcome will be a commercial-ready system operated by a water services company at a throughput volume useful for HF operations and an optimized technology ready for deployment at additional sites. More than 30 billion gallons of freshwater have been used for HF since 2011 in efforts to recover the estimated 293 trillion cubic feet of gas trapped in unconventional deposits. Because the development of these unconventional resources is still in its early stages, it can reasonably be assumed that the demand for fresh water will increase in the coming years, taxing local supplies and creating demand for commercial-ready alternative technologies to reduce fresh water usage.

Providing an alternative hydraulic fracturing technology designed to cost-effectively treat environmentally hazardous AMD water will help reduce the use of and strain on fresh water resources. The technology developed during this project will provide a new freshwater source for HF operations in the unconventional resource development industry and concurrently assist in mitigating AMD, a legacy source of pollution.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
A source water stakeholder committee was established and provided preferences for the quality of water to be used in hydraulic fracturing operations. The project team anticipates that the HydroFlex platform will be capable of meeting the water quality parameters for reuse in oil and gas operations based on completed laboratory and bench-scale tests.

Current Status (January 2015)
The field demonstration HydroFlex system located in Sarver, PA was operated under steady state conditions over two weeks in October 2014, indicating that the unit is operating as designed and capable of executing the two test campaigns planned for 2015. 

Project Start: October 1, 2013
Project End: September 30, 2015

DOE Contribution: $900,000.00
Performer Contribution: $225,000.00

Contact Information:
NETL –  David Cercone (David.Cercone@netl.doe.gov or 412-386-6571)
Battelle – Anne Lane (LaneA@battelle.org or 614-424-3266)

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