Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
|Biofilm Remediation of Hydraulic Fracturing Flowback Water in the Marcellus Shale
||Last Reviewed 12/17/2012
The project goal is to develop a customized low-cost biolfim-based water remediation system that can be operated at field sites to remove contaminants from flowback water.
Frac Biologics, Inc.
The increase in hydraulic fracturing drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale play has led to the recovery of millions of gallons of flowback water, around one million gallons per well. The flowback water contains heavy metals, organics and high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS). The majority of the water can be reused at the drill site and the remaining water must be disposed of in deep disposal wells or treated for re-use or discharge, with costs ranging from $8–15 per barrel. With the price of gas declining to below $3 per MCF, any treatment options for flowback water must be economical for operators.
Cost-effective water treatment options for Marcellus flowback water will give operators the option of treating water on-site and will reduce transportation costs associated with deep well disposal.
Research using biofilm technology to treat hydraulic fracturing fluids has proven that removal of heavy metals, radionuclides, organic substances, selenium, and arsenic is feasible. Numerous beneficial microorganisms in hydraulic fracturing fluid responsible for selenium reduction were isolated and identified. The preliminary economic analysis estimates the life cycle cost of treatment at less than $3 per barrel of fluid treated.
Researchers identified the DNA of the bacteria in a sample and determined what mixture of organisms may be best suited to remove contaminants from Marcellus flowback water. Small lab columns were set up and biofilms established. Flowback water was passed through the columns and samples were tested to determine metal removal rates.
Microbial samples have been sent to Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE) laboratories at Montana State University. The microbial populations of the samples are being analyzed and enriched. Many samples showed good ability to reduce selenium. The next step will be to determine if the selected cultures are able to remove metals from frac water. The Center for Genomic Sciences (CGS) at the Allegheny Singer Research Institute will perform species-specific identification of complex biofilm microbiomes.
Current Status (December 2012)
Research efforts on this project have been completed. A final report is being prepared.
Project Start: July 17, 2011
Project End: March 16, 2012
DOE Contribution: $100,000
Performer Contribution: $0
Total Contract Value: $100,000
NETL – Sandra McSurdy (email@example.com or 412-386-4533)
Frac Biologics, Inc – J. Carter Post (firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-213-1772)