Jim Willis the editor of The Marcellus Drilling News (http://marcellusdrilling.com) paid Keystone Pure Water Tech a visit several weeks back. Jim has seen a lot of technology in the water clean up area. He wrote the following article about us.
Exclusive: Breakthrough Tech Cleans Frack Wastewater <30 Minutes
What if you were convinced an invention IS the greatest thing since sliced bread–at least as it applies to the world of shale drilling? And what if that invention could clean thousands of gallons of frack wastewater right on site and turn it into DRINKABLE water–in less than 30 minutes? And what if this process uses no chemicals, and even eliminates radioactivity, producing inert minerals (like iron) that can be sold for profit? Oh, and what if your cost, as the driller, was only $3 per barrel to work this magic? Would you believe such a tall tale? You would if you were me…
In order to give you a proper background for why I–Jim Willis, editor of MDN–am singing the praises of a (for now) little known but in my opinion revolutionary technology that will soon change the face of fracking, you need a bit of background. In order to believe in a technology, you first must believe in the people who created it.
Jim’s Previous Life
I once worked for a pioneering publishing company that was one of the first to offer online access to science and engineering e-books. The company was called Knovel. I worked there from its startup in 2000 through 2006.
Knovel was a classic startup complete with maverick founders (Bill Woishnis and Chris Forbes) and a unique board of directors. Jim had the privilege of working with board members on many occasions–interacting with them, fielding questions, learning and collaborating.
Knovel’s board had some prestigious members: Ed Barry, former president of Oxford University Press; Li Lu, founder and chairman of Himalya Capital and one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests in China; and John Patrick, former VP of marketing for IBM and the man who launched the IBM Thinkpad notebook computer. Yeah, some pretty heady people gathered around the board table. Good people who taught Jim a lot.
One more name to add to the list above: Dan Summa. At the time when Jim worked at Knovel, Dan was a partner with Genesys Partners, an investment banking firm that raised much of Knovel’s early equity capital after the dot-com implosion in the early 2000s. Dan is a serial entrepreneur and since that time he has started and managed a number of companies.
Last year Dan contacted Jim “out of the blue” on LinkedIn. Dan wanted to swing through Binghamton and have a talk–face to face. As it turned out, Dan had founded a new firm called Keystone Pure Water Tech, and his new firm has a lot to do with my new profession of writing about the shale drilling industry in the northeast.
I mention this background so that you know when Dan contacted me and explained what it is his new company does–what I mention in the opening paragraph–you’ll believe me when I say my first thought was “this is too good to be true,” and my second thought was, “Dan is a straight shooter–if this is real, it could literally change the world of shale drilling.”
Although I believed Dan and even though he sent me pictures throughout 2013 showing test results from various types of water he was testing, I’m still a skeptic at heart and needed to see the process with my own eyes. Seeing is believing. A demonstration was in order, and not long ago, a demonstration I got.
For several months starting in spring 2014, Dan’s company tested a large scale prototype unit on something far worse than frack wastewater. They used it to clean leachate leaking from underneath a landfill. The junk that comes from under a landfill is extremely toxic and if you can clean that, everything else, including frack wastewater, is a piece of cake.
Dan’s initial trials at a Scranton-area landfill were a huge success and so it was on to step two, which was to conduct a field test on another substance less toxic than landfill leachate, but still more toxic than frack wastewater: acid mine drainage.
Underneath Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and running south for about 75 miles–all the way to Hazelton–is a series of abandoned coal mines from generations gone by. Unfortunately, over the years ground water has seeped into the old mines and the exposed minerals in those mines has mixed with the water to produce what is called acid mine drainage (AMD). Some 300 billion gallons of AMD is found in northeast PA. It is the single largest source of pollution for the Chesapeake Bay (see Marcellus Drilling Helps Fix Biggest Polluter of Chesapeake Bay).
Dan chose a site on the outskirts of Hazelton for the next test of his new technology–at the site of the old Pagnotti coal mine, located on what’s now called the Hazelton Creek Property. Dan and his crew were actively processing AMD coming from the site and wanted to show me how it works.
So I traveled to Scranton (Keystone Pure Water’s headquarters) where I was met by Dan’s partner, Ray Angeli, who took me to their latest test site near Hazelton. On the way, I got to know Ray a bit–peppering him with questions. Ray is the former president of Lackawanna College in Scranton (1994-2012). Before that he was part of Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey’s cabinet, and before that, a career Army helicopter pilot. Dan chose well when he partnered with Ray. The two of them together are the controlling partners in Keystone Pure Water Tech and have been looking at the problem of cleaning frack wastewater and potential technology solutions around it for several years before founding Keystone.
The Secret Sauce
Ray told me some of the background for the technology they use. The heart and soul of process they’ve developed is based on patented technology that has been in use in the metal plating industry. The Advanced Oxidation Process or “AOP” produces commercial quantities of ozone on site and ozone is the key, the “secret sauce” that makes Dan and Ray’s invention different from–and what they would say better than–other solutions. By using large quantities of ozone mixed with substances as toxic as leachate (and frack wastewater), minerals and toxins are separated out into inert substances that are no longer toxic, and the water left is actually drinkable. And yes, Dan and Ray have drunk their own cleaned-up water (see the pictures below)!
Ozone, the stuff found in earth’s atmosphere (that sometimes develops a hole), has some amazing properties. Dan and Ray have the exclusive license to use AOP technology in the United States and put that technology to good use cleaning up some of our most polluted fluids.
Arriving at the site in Hazelton, bumping along over the dirt road that winds its way into the heart of the old Pagnotti mine property, I saw what looked to be a small trailer set up–about the size of a food vendor’s trailer you might see sitting outside a big box store in a shopping plaza.
Dan and a worker were busy cleaning up AMD and Dan took me on the “grand tour.” The three of us could fit inside the 40’ trailer–but there wasn’t much room to spare! The pilot unit they built is capable of cleaning 50-75,000 gallons of fluid per day. The technology, according to Dan, is completely scalable – the largest installation of the technology in the world to date processes 2 million gallons of septic water a day overseas. So it’s a proven technology. Dan and Ray’s “twist” is to find a new application for that existing technology by applying it to frack wastewater.
As we worked our way from back to front of the trailer, Dan explained what I was looking at and the process. Here’s how it works…
How the Magic Works – In 4 Steps
Step 1: First, contaminated water is pumped into a tank or AOP reactor. An electric current is introduced at the same time ozone (O3) is added to the mix. The electric current acts like lightening in a bottle and in combination with the ozone and water produces atomic oxygen (O), hydroxyls (OH) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), in addition to the ozone itself. Those four substances are the four most active oxidants found in nature. It’s like a super cleaning formula composed of O3, O, OH and H2O2.
The ozone combination oxidizes organic compounds and bacteria found in the wastewater. In the reactor the wastewater is in a slow state of cavitation (churning), where the electric shock increases the solubility (or dissolvability) of ozone enriched air by more than 30 times. This dissolved ozone promotes the formation of particles that “clump together” in a suspended state. The technical term is “flocculant.”
The wastewater is also subject to UV radiation to remove bacteria and other pathogens. The flocculants (clumps of suspended particles) are removed by electrocoagulation–a process of passing radio waves through the liquid which pulls out oil and gas, metals etc.
This first step in the process removes inorganic and organic matter such as benzene, toluene, iron, barium and strontium from the solution and produces a recyclable liquid. It is unique in that it converts hydrocarbons present in the water to carbon dioxide and water–harmless and non-toxic.
Step 2: The liquid passes through a DAF Unit (diffused air flotation) where water is separated from sludge.
Step 3: The liquid then passes through carbon and ceramic filtration where the water is cleaned further. Ozone may be introduced again to further polish the result.
Step 4: (Optional) If total dissolved solids (TDS or “salts”) need to be removed from the water, that is done through a reverse osmosis unit (RO). Keystone is also working on a Forward Osmosis (FO) process. Right now they have it working in the lab.
With the exception of the ozone generator and ozone reactor, all of the equipment used for the above process is “off the shelf” and readily available.
The ozone reactor requires 480 volts of electricity, but all other parts of the process require standard 220 volts.
In asking Dan and Ray about their plans for the future, I learned that while they are willing to sell units outright, what they really are interested in is providing their solution under a Master Services Agreement (MSA) to clean frack wastewater for shale drillers. The economics are as compelling as they are simple: Keystone takes in frack wastewater and delivers back clean water for $3 per barrel.
Dan and Ray currently have the unit set up at another landfill where they’re cleaning up leachate. In August, they’ll be relocating to the Old Forge Borehole–the single biggest point source of pollution for the Chesapeake Bay. They’re going to help clean up the Bay! From there, they are headed north to shale country to begin cleaning up frack wastewater.
On the trip to Hazelton (and back) Ray told me their three potential markets are landfills with leachate, acid mine water, and frack wastewater. Of the three, frack wastewater is the easiest to clean and, they hope, will be their primary market going forward. They plan to sell units and service agreements not only in Pennsylvania but also North Dakota (the Bakken Shale) and Texas (with multiple shales, including the Haynesville, Eagle Ford and Barnett).
Dan and Ray are visionaries. They see water as the next big issue and AMD as a potential source of water not only for the fracking industry, but for other industrial users as well.
Will Drillers Use It?
The multi-million dollar question I have: “Will drillers use this new technology?” I put that question to Dan in a phone conversation. My point to Dan is–you can have a literal, real goose that lays literal, real golden eggs right in front of someone and they still won’t believe it. Drillers (like all humans) do things “the way it’s always been done.” It has a powerful psychological pull. It’s safe. How will Dan and Ray convince the world they havebuilt a better mousetrap?
The answer is, they’ll continue to run large scale pilot tests–which invariably result in skeptics testing and re-testing the cleaned water, after which their jaws hit the floor when they see the results and realize that yes, what Dan says is true is true. And then?
And then sooner or later some driller somewhere will run the numbers and take a chance and begin using Keystone Pure Water Tech’s ingenious new method to clean frack wastewater. And they’ll do it for pennies on the dollar compared to other methods of disposal, like hauling it to injection wells.
Sooner or later, when someone begins to use it in full production–and gets amazing results–others will follow. It’ll take a couple of years, no doubt. But when it happens, there will be one less excuse for anti-drillers to use against shale drilling.
I believe this technology truly has the power to change the face of fracking.
Post script: You should know that I have no economic interest in Dan’s technology, his company, nor am I connected in any way–other than knowing Dan through Knovel. I will not profit from the success of his new venture. My only interest is in seeing an exciting new technology catch hold and better our industry and our environment. Yes, I really do care about the environment and want to see drilling done as safely as possible–especially when it costs less to do it!