The oil and gas industry can bring new resources to bear in its battle against critics and efforts to achieve a “social license to operate.” A small cleantech firm has developed patented technology that allows producers to recycle up to 100% of their well flowback and produced water during hydraulic fracturing operations.
“We use and have invented an advanced oxidation process to treat water on the front end of the [fracking process] and at the flow rate of the [fracking process], eliminating liquid biocides and chemicals for bacteria growth and scale inhibition, and allowing 100% recycling of the flowback and produced waters,” said EcoSphere Technologies Chairman and CEO Charles Vinick said during a recent radio appearance.
The company supplies oil and gas producers with up to 53-foot self-contained mobile water treatment plants that connect directly to the drilling operation. EcoSphere’s proprietary Ozonix technology saturates the inflow of contaminated water with ozone using hydrodynamic cavitation, acoustic cavitation, and electro-chemistry.
Hydrodynamic cavitation and acoustic cavitation alter the properties of ozone which causes contaminates to decompose into millions of tiny bubbles, that are then imploded, destroying the bacteria’s cellular walls and cleaning the water for re-use in future operations.
Breaking Into a Fast Growing Industry
EcoSphere was formed about 14 years ago and although the oil and gas sector is the company’s fastest growing market, the firm offers environmental industrial waste water solutions to a wide range of industries, Vinick recently told Breaking Energy.
The company is currently most active in Arkansas’ Fayetteville shale play, the Woodford shale in Oklahoma and through a sub-licensee called Hydrozonix, operates in the Texas Permian Basin. EcoSphere is also expanding into the Marcellus shale located in the Northeast and the Bakken oil play, which extends through North Dakota and Montana and up into Canada, said Vinick.
US independent producers Southwestern Energy and Newfield Exploration are EcoSphere’s biggest oil and gas customers, but in addition to the petroleum sector, Vinick told Breaking Energy his company’s technology can be applied to nuclear power generation, solar and semiconductor production and coal-fired power plants. The potential for expansion into other industrial sectors also exists, said Vinick.
As a fairly young and small company with 75 employees still new to the oil and gas services space, building a reputation among larger, established incumbents like Halliburton and Schlumberger can be a challenge, Vinick said. EcoSphere is also working hard to educate the industry and the public about their technology.
Another challenge EcoSphere faces is a reliance on diesel fuel to power its mobile water treatment facilities. Although US benchmark oil and oil product prices have decreased in recent weeks, diesel prices remain above historical averages.
The company is looking to break into the oil and gas space at a transitional time, with the International Energy Agency recently releasing an unconventional natural gas report that charges the industry with the need to obtain “social buy in,” or risk regulatory backlash that could potentially limit its operational reach. The US EPA is also conducting a comprehensive study on hydraulic fracturing and water issues that could tip the balance of power in the fracking debate toward the industry or to its detractors when released next year.