Raleigh startup offers solution to clean-up fracking's toxic mes - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

What's Next

Raleigh startup offers solution to clean-up fracking's toxic mess

Posted: Updated:
Tethis's super-absorbent biodegradable foam Tethex binds with dissolved salts, mineral and other materials, allowing them to be physically removed from waste water. Tethis's super-absorbent biodegradable foam Tethex binds with dissolved salts, mineral and other materials, allowing them to be physically removed from waste water.
A worker helps monitor water pumping pressure and temperature, at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing and extraction site, outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) A worker helps monitor water pumping pressure and temperature, at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. hydraulic fracturing and extraction site, outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
The sun sets behind an oil pump jack and the Rocky Mountains near Fredrick, Colo. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) The sun sets behind an oil pump jack and the Rocky Mountains near Fredrick, Colo. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

It's a passionate debate in North Carolina, but fracking is moving forward in the Old North State. The next step is deciding how to drill for natural gas without adversely impacting the environment.

The process of fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of chemically treated water about two miles into the ground at an extremely high pressure. That pressure then causes fracturing of the shale formation, which pushes natural gas up to the surface.

The process, though, also pushes millions of gallons of now toxic water to the surface.

"It's actually a toxic waste problem that we just deal with," said Scott Bolin, CEO of Tethis. "When you are doing mining or any kind of industrial processing, you end up generating millions and millions of gallons of water that is very salty."

Bolin says Tethis has created a biodegradable foam that could transform that toxic problem.

The sponge was created by two professors in the forestry department at N.C. State who were trying to figure out what to do with waste that comes out of the pulp and paper industry. So they mixed it with seashells and created the material that now makes up Tethex sponge.

Tethex binds with dissolved salts, mineral and other materials, allowing them to be physically removed from waste water.

Scott says the material is the key to soaking up dangerous metals, nuclear material and salt, which is produced during the highly controversial practice of fracking.

In the past, the water was dumped into what are called re-injection wells; which means, in the last 30 years, 70 trillion gallons of the water has been dumped back into the ground. Tethis says, with its fracking sponge, that water can be re-used.

But to absorb that much water, Tethis needs a really big sponge.

"We need to be able to generate thousands of tons a year of this sponge," Tethis co-founder Ryan Chan said.

Tethis only officially became a business about six months ago when it began as a graduate program at N.C. State. Recently the company scored an $800,000 investor, and the budding business is now banking on its sponge to bring success and a cleaner Earth.

Bolin is optimistic that Tethis will have a million-dollar client by the end of the year.

Melanie Sanders

Melanie anchors the 6 PM news. Her "What's Next" series features an engaging approach to storytelling and highlights the leaders in innovation who are shaping our future. Check it out HERE! More>>

  • Iraq's top Shiite cleric appeals to politicians

    Iraq's top Shiite cleric appeals to politicians

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:38 AM EDT2014-08-01 11:38:15 GMT
    The United Nations says 1,737 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Iraq in July, marking a dramatic decline from the previous month, when some 2,400 people were killed as Sunni militants swept across large...
    Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric is appealing to politicians not to be "an obstacle" in the process of transition as Iraq nears a deadline to select its next prime minister.
  • 35 killed, soldier missing as Gaza truce unravels

    35 killed, soldier missing as Gaza truce unravels

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:22 AM EDT2014-08-01 11:22:40 GMT
    A three-day cease-fire in the Gaza Strip has gone into effect following heavy Israel-Hamas fighting.
    A Gaza cease-fire quickly unraveled Friday as violence erupted in and around the southern town of Rafah, with 35 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and the military saying one of its soldiers may have been abducted.
  • Large expert team reaches Ukraine crash site

    Large expert team reaches Ukraine crash site

    Friday, August 1 2014 6:33 AM EDT2014-08-01 10:33:39 GMT
    Ukrainian authorities said Friday that at least 10 government troops were killed in an ambush by pro-Russian separatists in an area near the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but international inspectors...
    A team of several dozen international investigators descended Friday on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine to begin combing an area now designated as a crime scene.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.