Waste to work: Penn State researchers use industrial waste in hydraulic fracturing

While the debate over the long-term environmental impact of what is commonly known as fracking  rages, researchers at Penn State University say they have discovered how to use industrial waste products to make the practice more sustainable. During the lifetime of a fracking well, millions of gallons of water are pumped deep into the ground, causing immense fractures and releasing natural gas from the underlying shale deposits. Mixed into the water are chemicals of variable toxicity. But it also contains sand particles to keep fractures open, allowing the natural gas to continue flowing. These particles, known as proppants, are the focus of Penn State material scientists John Hellmann and Barry Scheetz’s research.

Fracking sand mines credited for fluctuating property values

By Alison Dirr
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Perry Schmitt describes himself as pro-mining but blames the frac sand mine across the highway from his home for driving down the asking price by more than $25,000, to $189,000. His neighbors made out better. Kari Curran and her husband sold 130 acres for $1.5 million to a company affiliated with Unimin Mining Corp., operator of the mine. The property was previously valued at about $225,000. “It was kind of bittersweet,” Curran said.