LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Canadian company plans to recycle water used in hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the Fayetteville Shale and sell it to the companies that use the process to drill for natural gas.
The company also has a permit to discharge the water into Cadron Creek, a recreational waterway that runs from Cleburne County to Faulkner County before flowing into the Arkansas River.
Richard Magnus, spokesman for Calgary, Alberta-based Fountain Quail Water Management LLC, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the company would prefer to sell the water to the gas companies.
“We don’t want to put it in the stream,” Magnus said. “Somewhere down the road we could end up with a NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue and someone will say ‘you polluted our stream.’ We’d rather avoid that by recycling and reusing the water in the fracking process.”
Fracking is a process in which water is mixed with sand and chemicals and injected into the ground to break up rock and release trapped natural gas. The water that returns to the surface must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
Fracking wastewater contains high concentrations of sodium, chloride, bromide, arsenic, barium and other heavy metals, some of which are carcinogenic, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The makeup of the wastewater makes it impossible to treat for human consumption under traditional water treatment methods, the Geological Survey said.
Fountain Quail’s process distills the water, making it drinkable, Magnus said.
“This is pure distilled water,” Magnus said. “This is the same stuff they make Coca-Cola out of. It’s actually as clean as rain, probably cleaner than rain.”
Patrick Horner, a vice president of engineering with Fountain Quail, said the treatment facility will take the wastewater and separate it from solids, boil it, de-aerate it and turn it into steam and then back into water. It will then be stored in a pit that can be drawn on by natural gas companies.
Southwestern Energy Co. of Houston, the top producer in the Fayetteville Shale, and BHP Billiton Petroleum, a Houston-based subsidiary of BHP Billiton of Australia and No. 2 producer in the shale, currently truck fracking wastewater hundreds of miles to disposal sites, spokesmen for both companies confirmed.
Danny Games of BHP in Arkansas said the company has talked with Fountain Quail but declined to comment further. Susan Richardson of Southwestern did not return calls about Fountain Quail.
Magnus said the company is “moving earth” on a 12-acre site near Twin Groves, about five miles south of Damascus, with operations expected to start in November.