WASHINGTON Dec 17 The U.S. Coast Guard hopes to
complete a policy in the next few weeks that would allow
drillers to ship wastewater from shale gas production by barge
over the nation's inland waterways, a government official said
Bulk shipments by barge of wastewater produced from the
controversial drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking, are not currently permitted, said Pat Keffler, the
lead chemical engineer at the Coast Guard's hazardous materials
"Industry is looking to at least open this as an option for
shipment," Keffler said.
PublicSource, a non-profit news group, first reported on
Sunday that the Coast Guard was considering allowing fracking
wastewater to be moved by barge.
Advances in fracking, which involves injecting a cocktail of
water, sand and chemicals underground to extract fuel, have
unlocked the nation's massive shale gas reserves.
The growth in shale gas development has led to questions of
how to best to manage the wastewater produced through the
Drillers can recycle wastewater for reuse, dispose of it at
treatment plants or at underground injection sites in states
including Ohio, or store the wastewater in open air pits.
Currently, much of this wastewater is transported by trucks,
which is expensive. The cost factor led to inquiries from
industry about barge transport about a year ago, PublicSource
Keffler said no final decisions had been made on the policy,
but that the agency was leaning toward authorizing barge
shipments that meet certain criteria. He said the agency hopes
to set out the policy in the next few weeks.
"It wouldn't be a trip-by-trip requirement, it would just be
that you've got a barge or barge fleet that is approved to carry
that cargo," Keffler said.
The rapid expansion of shale gas drilling has raised
concerns from environmentalists about possible harmful impacts
from various aspects of the fracking, including the disposal of
Some environmental groups have argued that allowing
wastewater to be moved by barge could threaten the safety of
waterways and drinking water, but industry groups have argued
transport is safer by barge than by truck, PublicSource
Environmentalists have pressed for more transparency
regarding the chemicals used in fracking to aid in regulation
and public awareness. While companies have begun to disclose
more about the chemicals they use under state laws and voluntary
industry efforts, some details have been withheld as trade