The Blackfeet Nation in Montana and Florida-based Ecosphere Technologies said Tuesday they have agreed for Ecosphere to provide water treatment services to oil/gas operators using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on portions of the Native American tribe's 3,000-square-mile reservation.

A spokesperson for Ecosphere emphasized that the agreement for use of the company's Ozonix technology is part of the tribe's broader effort to "sustainably develop" its heritage lands and create jobs for tribal members. Ecosphere and its subsidiaries provide water engineering, technology licensing and environmental services.

Denver-based Anschultz Exploration Corp. this week halted exploratory drilling activity on about 640 acres of the 50,000 acres encompassing the entire federal exploratory lease area that includes the Blackfeet land while it works out plans with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Blackfeet agency (see Daily GPI, March 27).

Noting the large water requirements for the fracking process, the Ecosphere-Blackfeet commitment is supposed to make available to oil/gas operators a non-chemical approach for treating and reusing 100% of waters on the reservation. The Ozonix technology is geared to help preserve the tribe's water resources and eliminate the need to truck wastewater to disposal sites off the reservation, the Ecosphere spokesperson said.

"Therefore, it should improve the economics of shale oil and gas exploration on the reservation," he told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday.

The Blackfeet reservation is located along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, bordered by Canada to the north and Glacier National Park. It is described as an area that is a "sensitive and important ecosystem" in northwestern Montana on a reservation stretching 150 miles north-south and 100 miles in an east-west direction. There are eight major lakes, 150 miles of fishing streams and a wide variety of wild animals from grizzly bears to deer.

Grinnell Day Chief, the Blackfeet Tribe's oil/gas manager, said the tribe evaluated a wide variety of water treatment technologies on the market before selecting Ecosphere, whose existing fracking sites the Blackfeet officials visited. "By providing the oil and gas companies operating on our land with access to this environmentally sound and cost-effective technology, we are reinforcing our commitment to improving the quality of life for our people through economic development of our energy resources while also preserving our vital natural water resources," he said.