Donny Beaver – October 31, 2013

Donny Beaver started his entrepreneurial career in the 1970’s in the industrial cleaning business. In 1981 he had a breakthrough simple idea for sopping up industrial oil spills. He had contracts for distributing “kitty litter” (an oil dryer) around manufacturing equipment and sweeping it up when it had become soaked in oil. After changing his baby’s diaper, he got the idea of inserting the kitty litter in his wife’s pantyhose and placing the tube around the base of the equipment. Labor costs fell over 90%, he patented his invention and his industrial clean-up business that became New Pig Corporation (founded in 1985) was on its way.  New Pig spill containment and cleanup now has over 5,000 products and the business gave Mr. Beaver experience in the oil and gas industry. The company sells a well pad absorptive liner around a drilling rig to soak up spills and splashes, which Mr. Beaver says has become a standard in the business.

In 2013 Mr. Beaver founded HalenHardy, where he is now CEO, to manufacture and sell mobile air showers for worker protection against respireable silica dust.  The process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” involves high-volume, high-pressure insertion of a mix of 90% water (3-5 million gallons), 9.5% sand (330,000 + pounds) and 0.5% chemicals into wells to create cracks to free the flow of gas. The insertion of sand at a rate of 30,000 pounds a minute creates a fog of fine silica dust around the wellhead. Workers wear respirators but are exposed to pollution when they take the respirators off and brush their clothes. Silica dust causes nasty lung problems. The mobile air shower works faster and more efficiently than existing OSHA-approved procedures to whisk these particles off clothing. 

On the topic of fracking, Mr. Beaver noted that the United States has huge stores of natural gas and the question is how to get at them. The technology developed out of Texas and Oklahoma of a combination of fracking and horizontal drilling is the key to unlocking this wealth, according to Mr. Beaver. The success of this technology has greatly lowered the market price of natural gas. He explained that a 4-5 acre well pad using horizontal drilling can cover over a square mile of drilling activity, an area that would require numerous vertical drilling wells covering as many as 24 acres.  Once drilling and fracking is complete, the site can be reduced to one acre and can operate for up to thirty years on a much smaller footprint than vertical operations. These wells drill down 5,000 feet and then horizontally in various directions another 5,000 feet. There is talk of developing 10,000 foot horizontal drilling operations. He explained that the vertical portion of the well is a series of casings of decreasing diameter, each surrounding by thick cement. These multiple layers of cement contribute to stability.

On issues of pollution from fracking, Mr. Beaver noted that the wells run way deeper than water wells in the areas, which in Pennsylvania average 250-350 feet deep with few over 500 feet; the industry is highly regulated; disposal of waste water is an issue not only for the chemicals in the process but also for natural contaminants, such as radioactive particles, but new technology is developing greater recycling; chemicals comprise only 0.5% of the fracking mix, and include many household chemicals; fracking’s usage of water per BTU produced is less than that for ethanol; mistakes happen and spills occur, but the industry understands it needs to operate  cleanly; and studies show little evidence of major environmental problems.

In the Q and A, Mr. Beaver noted the following:

The physics of gravity work against the spread of contamination upwards and around the well site.

Working with all the landowners and, where different, the owners of subsurface rights, is a complex ballet for the industry and takes years. In some states, all property owners affected have to agree; in others, 90% approval is required.

Burning water faucets from methane gas is a natural phenomenon, as well as one caused by fracking.  Operators are aware of this issue and test for methane in the area.