GE says it's got technology to clean up fracking

General Electric (GE) says it has technology that can help decrease the chances of toxic waste spills during fracking and cut the costs of water treatment in half.

The technology, based on a type of desalination known as membrane distillation, would make it unnecessary to dilute millions of gallons wastewater – or to transport that water for treatment or disposal – that companies reuse after its been pumped underground and collected chemicals.

Based on pilot-scale tests, GE researchers say they'll soon be able to cut fracking wastewater treatment costs by up to 50%.

But the technology will only be useful in places where the wastewater is too salty for existing methods, or in very dry areas.

If it works as advertised, "it would make a big difference," says Mark Boling of Southwestern Energy.

Concerns about the negative environmental effects of fracking  and in particular water pollution, are constraining what could be an even greater industrial boom. Notably France and New York State are keeping a lid on the practice, for this reason, for now.

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