In the past two years, Seneca Resources has quietly purchased the wastewater treatment facility at the McKean County landfill and has been making improvements.
“In an effort to reduce costs and the environmental footprint of its western Pennsylvania drilling program, Seneca Resources purchased Casella’s water logistics company, and created Highland Field Services LLC, to manage a substantial portion of fluids used in its operations,” said Rob Boulware, manager of stakeholder relations for Seneca.
The Casella-Altela Regional Environmental Services McKean Wastewater Treatment Facility at the McKean County Landfill in Sergeant Township is now Highland Field Services.
“Seneca purchased part of the facilities that are on the right side of Campbelltown Road,” Boulware explained. The deal was made in 2014, but Seneca had not announced it publicly before being contacted by The Era on Monday.
“We didn’t start hiring people until the last six months or so,” he said.
The facility was shuttered when Seneca purchased it, but had been in use prior to that.
“We actually sent water there when it was being run by Casella,” Boulware said. “The challenge nationwide for oil and gas development companies is to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce our environmental impact.
“The goal is to reuse every gallon of water, to eliminate freshwater services,” he explained. Casella’s services “allowed for 100 percent recycled water to be on-hand for the well completion process.”
He said Casella was interested in getting out of the wastewater business, and Seneca saw a benefit to both the services offered and the location.
“Casella was in the heart of our operational footprint,” Boulware said. “Knowing we had a specific need, we made the decision from a business perspective. This is part of the greater Seneca Resources water management plan.”
According to Boulware, Highland, a subsidiary of Seneca Resources, “uses an innovative strategy for managing shale gas wastewater and residuals. The company provides unique water resource and recycling solutions to upstream and midstream operators by creating incremental value from traditional waste streams. Highland manages the operational and economic needs of the energy sector in an environmentally responsible manner, advancing recycling and reuse rather than disposal.”
He continued, “Having invested $20 million in infrastructure — including the treatment plant, a centralized storage facility and a pipeline delivery network — Seneca has significantly reduced the amount of fresh water it uses in drilling operations by reusing produced fluids in future well completions. Seneca also uses Highland’s pipeline delivery network to transport water from its centralized storage facilities directly to Seneca’s well pads, reducing truck traffic on local roadways. Moving forward, Seneca has a target that fresh water will account for no more than 50 percent of fluids used in well completions, and expects that the recycling of produced fluids can save an overage of $0.5 million per well.”
A centrally located treatment plant creates a safer process, too, Boulware said.
“Having these capabilities in a defined region, we feel, is much safer,” he added. “We don’t have to truck water hundreds of miles. Any water that has been cleaned is meeting any DEP and EPA standards, so it would be the same as other water going through pipes.”
Now, when shale drilling is at a low, “Highland is providing Seneca water for its well companies. The scheduled upgrades will enable Highland to manage water in an environmentally responsible manner, while advancing recycling and reuse rather than disposal.”
He explained when wastewater is treated, two basic things come out of it — water and aggregate. “The aggregate can generally be poured in cement and (disposed of) in the landfill.”
The improvements at the Highland facility “reduces the aggregate that’s left — the product that gets (disposed of in the landfill) becomes less. It’s more cost efficient.”
Attempts to contact Casella late Monday were unsuccessful.