CONSOL Energy Building Coal Mine Acid Water Treatment Plants to Produce Water for Marcellus Shale Drilling

CONSOL Energy is a long-time coal producing company and now the third largest player (by acreage) in the Marcellus Shale after buying Dominion Resource’s gas exploration and production division (for $3.5 billion). So what’s next for CONSOL? Water!

CONSOL already traps and treats millions of gallons of water from the coal mining operations they have. They now plan to reuse that water for their Marcellus Shale drilling operations, and perhaps even sell it to their drilling competitors.

“We already have access to all this water that we already own and already treat,” running from underground mines such as the Bailey-Emerald complex in Greene and Washington counties, [Consol CEO J. Brett] Harvey said.

“We are actually going into the water business, I would say,” he said. Natural gas “was a byproduct of coal, and we built a gas company. Now it looks like water is a byproduct of all this (coal production), and we’ll probably develop great water resources for the state.”

Each [coal] mine treats and discharges millions of gallons each year. Consol will spend $200 million to $300 million over the next five years to build four or five new water treatment plants in Marcellus areas, he said, adding, “I’d love to be in the position where I am selling water to all our competitors” who now buy water from municipalities and other sources.

The idea is gaining momentum elsewhere.

“The reusing of acid mine drainage for fracking is a viable alternative to using surface and ground water,” Radisav Vidic, chairman of the civil and environmental engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh, told an audience at a Marcellus Shale conference yesterday at Duquesne University.*

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (May 5) – Consol pegs water as next business move

  • tlcbufalini

    The very high sulfate levels and high
    microbiological counts would render most acid mine drainage unsuitable for use
    without additional treatment. Perhaps the Consol plant will address this issue.
    I’ve heard the cost of treating AMD to resolve these problems could run as high
    as $4/BBL or $0.09/gallon. The scaling problems associated with sulfates and
    barium and calcium ions in the formation would have to be addressed. Given all
    the cheap alternate sources of fresh water in the Allegheny basin, I’m not sure
    that this make any economic sense.


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