A New and Potentially Safer Way to Treat Marcellus Shale Wastewater

A Pittsburgh startup company formed at the Pittsburgh Allegheny-Singer Research Institute believes it has developed a better solution than current alternatives for treating wastewater from drilling Marcellus Shale gas wells. Frac Biologics Inc. was founded by physicians, so it’s no surprise the technology comes from the medical community:

“The idea for the company came from our work with biofilms, which are (cell) communities that we try to manipulate or get rid of to treat human disease,” said Christopher Post, a physician and CEO of the 3-month-old company. Other founders are physician William Costerton and Garth Ehrlich. All three are Allegheny-Singer directors.

Allegheny-Singer researchers found the biofilms love to eat heavy metals, such as strontium, nickel, even uranium. The metals, in effect, fuel the biofilms, Post said.*

Water used in drilling Marcellus wells often comes out of the well containing small quantities of heavy metals. One of the objections to hydraulic fracturing is that wastewater from drilling eventually needs to be returned to the environment, and if it’s laced with heavy metals it is not safe. If Frac Biologics is successful with their concept, perhaps some of those objections can be addressed.

*Pittsburgh Tribute-Review (Apr 22) – New company says it can safely handle Marcellus wastewater