Fracking wastewater is far and beyond one of the most talked about and criticized outputs from hydraulic fracturing. The chemicals found in its wastewater are what some American citizens believe to be the cause of the contamination of the ground water where fracking has been occurring. There are many new ways to dispose of, or reuse brine (fracking water) waste that are being developed.
Duke University has recently released their findings on a new brine disposal method.
Blending frack wastewater with acid mine drainage, may be one of the best new options for brine disposal recently presented. By combining the two toxic substances at the correct proportions it has been discovered that many of their most toxic contaminants turn into solids, making the radioactive elements more easy to remove prior to releasing the water back into fresh water ways.
This new theory may be a great way to kill two birds with one stone, by also creating a beneficial use for acid mine drainage, which is also polluting waterways in much of the northeastern United States.
Blending the two substances also potentially reduces the need for drillers to constantly use different water sources, as it would give them an outlet for recycled wastewater for the fracking process.
Potentially being able to reuse brine not only reduces strain on the environmental aspects of the region, but also would make it easier to produce natural gas in regions that are lacking in freshwater due to drought.
Another recent Duke study has found that the current treatment standards and processes for disposing of brine (containing salts, and other radioactive materials) only partially removes these contaminants. This is one of the main causes of the recent gathering of radioactivity in streams in the Marcellus region.
More detrimental than fracking water to waterways in the Appalachian Basin, is its acid mine drainage. Many experts on water disposal are suggesting using it to frack gas wells rather than using fresh water.
During the study, after having combined the two mixtures it was found that after 48 hours that many of the ions, sulfate, iron, barium, and strontium along with 60-100% of the radium had become newly formed solids.
This allows fracking water decontamination sites to remove the toxic mixtures more efficiently, and dispose them in hazardous waste facilities instead. The process also reduces the amount of salt found in fracking water, hence making it more suitable to be reused at fracking sites.
The study is now in a field testing stage, and seems promising. If it were implemented it would be a double win for the energy industry and environmentalists alike.