PITTSBURGH, PA, April 21, 2010 -- Frac Biologics Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company formed to provide innovative, cost-effective treatment of "frac water" and acid mine drainage announced today that it has licensed proprietary biofilm technologies from Allegheny-Singer Research Institute (ASRI), a non-profit, independent research institute and member of the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS).
The Marcellus Shale is the largest natural gas formation in North America, with an estimated value of over one trillion dollars.
The natural gas is accessed by drilling horizontal wells at a depth of 6,000 feet, and then fracturing the shale to release the natural gas. This fracturing is achieved by pumping several million gallons of fluid (frac water) down into the wells. As the frac water returns to the surface, it brings with it heavy metals such as cadmium, barium, strontium, nickel, radium and uranium. The safe disposal of this contaminated frac fluid is one of the major obstacles in the drilling of the Marcellus Shale.
Frac Biologic's technology uses an on-site, environmentally-friendly process to remove the heavy metals from the recovered frac water. This unique technology uses naturally-occurring bacterial biofilms, which are complex, slime-enclosed communities that are found in all ecosystems. The removal of dangerous metals by biofilms is rapid and highly efficient.
Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) results when atmospheric oxygen penetrates rock and oxidizes pyrites (ferric sulfides), to form sulfuric acid, which then etches the rock and liberates iron salts. AMD occurs very rarely in nature, even in areas of very high pyrite concentration, because a biologically active crust develops on all rock surfaces through the oxidation of small amounts of minerals, the accretion of dust, and the growth of microbial biofilms.
Frac Biologic's technology uses natural soil microorganisms to prevent oxidation of tailings and waste rock, thus preventing AMD and returning Western Pennsylvania's rivers and streams to their natural state.
A major investor in Frac Biologics is iNetworks, a private equity/venture capital group in Pittsburgh. Frac Biologics is also partnering with Cosmos Technologies, a Northshore company with expertise in waste water management and engineering, and the Community College of Allegheny County. Cosmos will provide the research and development expertise to enable the technology to clean the millions of gallons of returning frac fluid from each well. CCAC is working closely with Frac to ensure the local workforce can be educated and trained for the potential jobs resulting from the technology.
As the research component of the West Penn Allegheny Health System, ASRI is home one of the world's foremost centers for biofilm research.