An absorbent form of silica can remove nearly all petro-chemicals from the water produced by hydraulic fracturing in shale-gas wells, Energy Department scientists announced late last week.
After field testing the modified silica, called Osorb, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory confirmed it can remove more than 99 percent of oil and grease from water, and more than 90 percent of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes—also known as BTEX—the volatile compounds that can poison drinking water.
“These tests showed that total petroleum hydrocarbon levels were slashed from 227 milligrams per liter to 0.1 milligrams per liter,” said DOE spokesman Jenny Hakun in an April 28 press release that describes Osorb as a “breakthrough technology.”
Hydraulic fracturing of shale has become increasingly important for freeing vast reserves of natural gas from shale formations in the United States, such as the Marcellus Shale formation under the Appalachian Mountains. But opposition to “fracking” has mounted because water injected underground to shatter the shale carries toxic hydrocarbons back to the surface and could imperil drinking water aquifers. (Forbes)