March 15, 2023

From Environmental Consulting and Engineering to Water Transfer Services, and Beyond

In 2009, Keystone Clearwater Solutions was founded with a vision to provide water treatment services for the natural gas industry in the Marcellus shale region, as the industry was in its infancy, driven by innovation in horizontal directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing technological advancement.  The Company was founded by principals of the ARM Group, based in Hershey, PA and established its roots through its Management’s long-standing experience in environmental engineering.  The Company began with water treatment technologies, which ultimately led to water sourcing, transfer, and pipeline construction and operation.  Today, Keystone Clearwater provides a full range of water transfer services to the natural gas industry in Appalachia, as well as equipment, water management and environmental services for municipal, construction, and industrial clients across the mid-Atlantic region.

“We were deeply rooted in environmental standards and practices in Pennsylvania, and that gave us an advantage for environmental compliance in the market. Many of the energy companies came from out of state (Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhereand didn’t understand the standards and regulations required in the market. Having grown out of an environmental consulting and engineering firm, Keystone had a competitive advantage, which accelerated our growth” said Dan Dalton, President and Chief Operating Officer.

Water transfer services
The focus of the company quickly changed from filtration in the early days to the movement of water. Initially, the company provided flowback water management services for operators such as Rex Energy.  Back then, well completions had longer stages, less water, and the water was mostly trucked.

“The industry changes very dynamically,” said Tom Stabley, chief executive officer. “Today, well completion stages are shorter, the amount of water has increased, and the quality of water changed.  The company has evolved over the years very similarly to how the Marcellus and Utica shale has evolved.” Realizing there was a need to supply water from Susquehanna River Basin sources to customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, Keystone Clearwater first expanded to provide intakes, and soon after to provide on-pad and off-pad water transfer services.

“We had the opportunity to show that we are a better water transfer services company than our competition,” said Dalton. “We were able to stand out by executing operations during the winter months, in extreme temperatures.  Anybody can transfer water in the summer but what really sets you apart is being able to transfer water when you have below-zero conditions and you must keep the water moving so you do not freeze the line and shut down the frac. We put forth a rigorous set of standard operating procedures to prevent freeze up and to keep that water moving, so we could continue to meet our customers’ needs.”

Within a few years, the company had grown from 5 to 50 employees. “Keystone Clearwater has always focused on finding the best people and caring for our employees. The team we put together in the early days really zeroed in on developing our company and delivering on quality service to our customers,” said Stabley.

Keystone Clearwater continues to evolve to meet new challenges in the oil and gas industry, to embrace new technologies, and to diversify its services.

Water transfer automation

As the industry has grown and advanced rapidly, field-based water management services were ripe for deployment of industrial automation, which have been more recently compounded bythe difficulties in hiring. Taking advantage of the efficiencies of automation, Keystone Clearwater developed WaterForce™, their proprietary water transfer automation system, to reduce staffing costs while enhancing performance, reliability, and safety. Using advanced water transfer technology, WaterForce is scalable and modular, cybersecure, and capable of maintaining stable communications across the remote and difficult terrain common to well completion sites. Keystone Clearwater is considered the first water transfer services company in the region to execute a completely autonomous water transfer system on a customer’s well site.

The future within and beyond the oil and gas industry

“We are exploring opportunities to expand Keystone Clearwater, potentially into another basin or even into other service lines and industries within the Appalachian Basin. We are a very entrepreneurial company, and with the workforce that we have, it enables us to do those things as we go forward,” said Stabley.

With an experienced workforce of more than 650 employees and a full range of equipment, Keystone Clearwater has the resources to not only provide water transfer services to the oil and gas industry, but to also expand its service lines and client base to other operating areas.  Recently, the company added solar solutions with its acquisition of Coral Reef Partners and general construction services for natural gas operators with our Construction Services Group. Our new division, FieldForce Rentals, Services, & Sales, provides equipment (including pumps, generators, and compressors from Atlas Copco) and services (including temporary pumping, dewatering, bypass temporary storage, filtration, and other construction-related rapid response services) for the construction, municipal, and natural gas markets.