Charles Young, Staff Writer | December 29, 2017 | WV News
Editor’s note: This story is part of NCWV Media’s year-end series recognizing people, projects and entities that positively impacted the North Central West Virginia region over the past year. Due to its potential to economically boost the Doddridge County area for decades to come while setting environmental standards for the oil and gas industry, NCWV Media’s Editorial Board has selected Antero Resources’ Clearwater Facility as the 2017 Private Project of the Year.
WEST UNION — Antero Resources’ Clearwater Facility in Doddridge County, which will clean fracking water so it can safely be reused, is the first of its kind in the oil and gas industry.
Al Schopp, Antero’s chief administrative officer and regional senior vice president, said the $300 million plant is an attempt to reduce the ecological footprint of the company’s operations in the region.
The plant, which is currently undergoing the final phases of operational testing, is set to open in the first few months of 2018, Schopp said.
The plant has been several years in the making, Schopp said.
“It was about a two-year planning stage and a two-year building stage,” he said.
Conrad Baston, Antero’s general manager of civil engineering, said the plant was designed to specifically handle the byproducts associated with Marcellus Shale fracking.
“We had a substantial planning component,” he said. “We developed statistics for the water from our region and took that data to a large, expert company.”
The company, Veolia Water Technologies, helped Antero to develop and refine techniques that will be used at the plant, Baston said.
“It takes the produced water that has no surface use at this point and separates it essentially in two,” Baston said. “It takes the 100 percent volume to produce 98 percent clean, surface-discharge-quality water and salt, and then takes those metals or things in the water and makes 2 percent residual solid.”
The residual solid will be taken to a regulated landfill in Idaho for disposal, while the clean water and salt can be reused, Baston said.
The clean water will be put back into Antero’s freshwater pipeline that runs to the different sites in the region.
By doing that, Antero will reduce its withdrawal of fresh water from streams by about 30 to 40 percent. Baston said this means there are 1.7 million gallons of water they don’t have to remove from streams in the first place.
The second part of that 98 percent is the salt, and Antero officials are creating an on-site salt landfill. The landfill will receive roughly about 2,100 tons at peak capacity.
“The landfill will only receive salt from Clearwater. It’s immediately adjacent to the facility and it’s all on Antero-owned property,” Baston said. “So there aren’t any concerns about the truck traffic; taking the salt from the plant doesn’t have to go on the road to another landfill.”
With the landfill’s close proximity to the Clearwater facility, Schopp said it will reduce trips on local roads by 3.2 million miles a year. The salt trucks never have to leave the property, which is about 37,000 trips per year.
“We actually reduce our truck traffic mileage by 10 million miles a year, which is another 16,000 tons of carbon emission eliminated,” he said.
“The trickle-down economics of supporting the engineering staff and the supporting commercial vendors for supplies and consumables will certainly create a wide amount of local opportunities,” he said.
Kevin Ellis, vice president of government relations with Antero, said Clearwater is one of the more prominent and important environmental projects undertaken in the United States in a long time in reference to the oil and gas industry.
“That’s why we’re so proud of this project; it’s the best project like this in the world, bar none, period,” he said. “West Virginia now has Clearwater and the largest gas processing plant in North America just a few miles away from that. West Virginia is taking its place on the national and world stage in energy production.”
Kevin Ellis, Vice President of government relations for Antero
Schopp said he expects other entities involved in the oil and gas industry to take notice of Clearwater’s innovative disposal methods.
“I think people will be watching this very closely,” he said. “We’ve had both Ohio and West Virginia regulators visit the plant and give presentations on the plant and what it could mean for disposal wells. So, I think we’re going to see both industry interest and regulatory interest in the plant as a potential viable alternative to the current solutions.”
Even once the Clearwater Facility is fully operational, Antero plans to continue is commitment to the North Central West Virginia region, Schopp said.
“We have similar development plans from last year to this year,” he said. “We expect some double digit growth from our production, but we also project a similar level of investment.”