Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marcellus Shale Waste Water to be Purified

The Marcellus Shale is a huge formation of rock with as much as $500 billion worth of natural gas contained in its recesses. University of Pittsburgh researchers will tackle the problem of wastewater generated by drilling this shale, thanks to a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Radisav Vidic is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and heads the Pitt research project. To obtain natural gas inside shale formations, drillers must use water to break up the rock and free up the gas within. The three-year Pitt project seeks to replace harmful chemicals in this water with new additives that will be more environmentally friendly. He says the big idea is to incorporate local acid mine drainage from old and abandoned quarries.

Vidic says the current flowback has five times more salinity than seawater. This dirty water is generally trucked off from mine sites and treated in plants, but many of the environmentally harmful chemicals still end up in groundwater. The Pitt study is one of nine across the country meant to curtail this hazardous mining byproduct.

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