We need some statewide help on this one, folks:
Endicott Interconnect linked to possible local wastewater facility
Company denies any plans in the works
Endicott Interconnect Technologies on Tuesday afternoon. / CASEY STAFF/ Staff Photo
As of yet, New York has no way to handle its disposal or treatment.
While at least one Southern Tier company has expressed interest in treating flowback water, there are no facilities that have the state's approval to treat the material.
Endicott Interconnect Technologies, based in Endicott, has approached the state Department of Environmental Conservation about accepting hydraulic fracturing wastewater for treatment, according to DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis.
However, EI hasn't filed a permit application with the state.
The company declined to discuss any plans to treat the material at its Endicott facility.
"This is so premature that there's not really anything to discuss," said Chris Pelto, EI's vice president for facilities. "If there was something to talk about then we could talk about it."
Frack water from natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale is typically twice as salty as seawater and can have high levels of radium, barium and other contaminants that need to be extracted before the water is disposed of or reused.
DEC is continuing its review of hydraulic fracturing -- a method used to extract natural gas from tight rock formations like the Marcellus Shale -- in a process that could result in drilling permits being issued as soon as next year.
However, officials say the state has no approved infrastructure for treating flowback water.
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens addressed questions on the subject during an online town hall meeting Saturday on the state government website CitizenConnects.
"No facilities in New York are currently permitted to accept wastewater from high-volume hydrofracking," Martens said.
"There are, however, facilities permitted in other states that can accept this waste," he added, "and eventually I expect that facilities will be modified to safely accept this waste in New York."
In Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and other western states with a history of oil and gas extraction, a relatively straightforward solution has been used for decades: The flowback water is pumped back into the ground.
"The majority of produced water -- saltwater that comes up with produced oil and gas -- as well as hydraulic fracturing flowback water in Texas is disposed of in approved underground injection wells and back into underground, geologically confined intervals," said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the industry in the state.
In the Northeast, the situation is different.
"Because of Pennsylvania's geology -- which is not all that different from New York -- we don't have a whole lot of underground injection wells," said Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Canonsburg, Pa.-based industry group.
This has forced the industry to create new ways to deal with the waste, he said.
According to Windle, the industry currently recycles approximately 70 percent of flowback water in Pennsylvania, using technology developed over the past several years.
In the recycling process, frack water is sent to treatment sites where contaminants are removed. The remaining water is reused at a new well.
And the 30 percent that isn't recycled?
A "significant portion" is shipped to underground injection sites in eastern Ohio, Windle said.
Earlier this year, in response to growing concerns, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection modified its regulations to prohibit treatment of hydrofracking wastewater in publically-owned wastewater treatment plants.
Kevin Sunday, spokesman for the Pennsylvania DEP, said most of the waste from Marcellus Shale drilling stays within the state.
"If the water is treated, it's getting treated in the state and as close to the site as possible," he said.
Endicott Interconnect is listed as a pilot location for testing a new hydrofracking wastewater treatment process in documents attached to a federally funded two-year, $2 million project.
On Tuesday, after failing to respond to multiple requests for comment from the Press & Sun-Bulletin over a period of several months, the company said it has no connection to the project.
"The information is incorrect and EIT was not awarded anything," Pelto said.
General Electric Global Research, based outside Schenectady, is the lead applicant for the project.
Dave Moore, one of the project leaders at GE, said the project is aimed at developing a process that combines a pre-treatment system that will remove contaminants with a membrane distillation system that will separate the remaining fluid into clean water and salt.
"We're developing a new membrane as well as new technologies that deal with wastewater safely, and in doing so, we're also working along with EI," Moore said. "We believe that this partnership is going to be a great way to really usher in a new era with some great new technologies."
In an abstract for the project, GE states it will test the technology using pilot equipment at EI, " ...which is planning to build a frack water 'Center of Excellence' in Endicott, N.Y."
Information on the website of the National Technology Energy Laboratory, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, indicates Endicott Interconnect is a participant in the project.
"The premise of this abstract is completely wrong and it's inaccurate," Pelto said. "It was a surprise to us to say that we were awarded any part of the grant."