Companies are racing to find ways to recycle the water used in hydraulic fracturing, chasing an emerging market that could be worth billions of dollars.
From energy industry giants Halliburton Corp. to smaller outfits such as Ecologix Environmental Systems LLC, companies are pursuing technologies to reuse the "frack water" that comes out of wells after hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"—the process of using highly pressured water and chemicals to coax oil and gas out of shale-rock formations.
While the recycled water can't currently be cleaned up enough for drinking or growing crops
, it can be cleaned of chemicals and rock debris and reused to frack additional wells, which could sharply cut the costs that energy companies face securing and disposing of water.
Some companies are finding it is still cheaper in many parts of the U.S. to inject the wastewater deep underground instead of cleaning it, which has slowed adoption of recycling technology. But experts say that is likely to change as fracking grows.