Article originally published on Forbes.com – 7/23/14
Read the original article here.
Fracking seems to have more going against it than for it, but a South Carolina-based company is hoping the oil and gas industry will mitigate environmental damages and health concerns with its latest product, Excelyte.
Excelyte is an EPA-approved solution that addresses major controversies associated with fracking: pollution of groundwater with toxic chemicals, release of hydrogen sulfide that endangers oil field workers’ lives, and excess wastewater.
Integrated Environmental Technologies (IET) originally developed the solution as a final surface cleaner to eliminate hospital-acquired infections like tuberculosis, and then to prevent foodborne illnesses in food production. Excelyte has been proven to be 99.9999% effective against HIV, H1N1, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, among other bacteria and viruses. The solution’s main active ingredient is hypochlorous acid—a naturally occurring molecule in the human body that fights infection.
Healthcare to food production was a natural extension, but in searching for other applications where bacteria and viruses posed as a deadly threat, IET found an industry that’s desperate to improve its environmental impact: oil and gas.
Excelyte is currently being tested in Utah and New Mexico in its first foray into the oil and gas scene. David LaVance, CEO of IET, said several well-known companies are using the product, but would not reveal which ones.
“We figured out that if our product was really safe for hospitals and for food, that it should be quite safe for oil and gas,” said LaVance. “We’ve done a whole series of tests and now have written papers on it that demonstrate it can be used underground in wells, and it of course has no detrimental effect on the water supply because this is a product that is safe for humans.”
LaVance has spent a majority of his career in healthcare and is also Chairman of the Board of Hologic, a leading provider of diagnostic and imaging systems related to women’s health, such as mammograms and pap tests.
A single frack job takes millions of gallons of water, with only 25-30% of that water recovered for reuse. IET claims that by mixing water with Excelyte’s bacteria and sulfur-fighting properties instead of toxic chemicals, twice as much wastewater can be recovered for reuse in fracking instead of using fresh water.
Hydrogen sulfide, a naturally occurring gas that can be released during oil and gas production, is the most frequent killer of oil field workers. Excelyte is a hydrogen sulfide scavenger that combines chemically to hydrogen sulfide. The solution, which took over five years to develop into a substance fit for production in industrial quantities, is also designed to leave no trace on the environment.
“Our product persists for only 90 days and then it disintegrates,” said LaVance. “It’s not underground for very long and things go back to normal after that. So it’s a quick-acting biocide.”
The state of Utah is optimistic about oil and gas companies using Excelyte to address environmental concerns.
“If companies are looking at this product as a way to prevent some of those things from happening, we’re certainly in favor of it,” said John Baza, director of the Oil, Gas and Mining Division in Utah. “We would encourage that kind of creative and innovative thinking.”
Wherever fracking is involved, controversy has traditionally followed. Concerns range from polluting drinking water with toxic chemicals to setting earthquake records. A community in the North Texan city of Denton, which is believed to hold one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the U.S., recently captured the attention of the energy industry with an attempt to ban hydraulic fracturing due to noise and toxic fumes from fracked wells in their backyard. But the city faces an uphill battle—the U.S. fracking market was valued at $26 billion in 2013 according to BCC Research.
In Utah, where Excelyte is in somewhat of a pilot testing mode, oil field companies are not required to obtain specific government approval to use the product, but are required to report chemical usage in the national database FracFocus.
Despite Excelyte’s impressive properties and promising applications, environmentalists aren’t likely to be overly excited about the product.
“Even if all of the chemicals used for fracking were perfectly benign (and they are not), the wastes still would be highly toxic, because the fluids bring numerous hazardous substances, including radioactive materials, to the surface,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney at environmentalist group Earthjustice. “No one yet has found a way to dispose of all of the wastes without creating additional environmental risks.”
Though fracking is by no means a sustainable practice, it is projected to experience further growth well into 2018. If widely adopted, the use of Excelyte could save lives and save water in various processes.
Excelyte has been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in food production; healthcare; veterinary practices; and the oil and gas industry.
The EPA declined to comment on the solution’s current or projected use in fracking activities.
The solution’s applications in reusing and recycling water would be of particular interest to West Coast states like Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and California, which have been facing a longstanding drought.
Integrated Environmental Technologies, Ltd. (IEVM) operates through its subsidiary, I.E.T., Inc. and is publicly traded. The company’s products and services are marketed and sold under the umbrella brand name, EcoTreatments.