Clean and Clear

Keystone Clearwater

Since 2009, Keystone Clearwater Solutions has provided customized water transfer services for shale gas operators throughout the Appalachian Basin and elsewhere across the nation. Keystone provides water sourcing, frac transfer services, pipeline construction, pipeline operations and management, water storage solutions, and transportation services.

The company’s team can handle all aspects of complex water transfer projects, from engineering and obtaining proper permits to construction, operations and maintenance – all to the highest standards of safety, engineering practice, and environmental protection.

In the business world, it is important to remember that the basis of almost any successful venture is a service relationship. Many businesses aim to meet all their customers’ needs in-house, offering them convenience and peace of mind; however, it is important to remember that behind the scenes, there are often essential partners providing key, specialized services.

The natural gas industry is one such example. In this field, specializes water transfer companies provide a critical service to shale gas operations. The only thing needed is a basic product of the environment, yet its sourcing and the logistics involved in providing it require expert skills. This thing, of course, is water.

The initial model of Keystone Clearwater grew out of a background in civil and environmental engineering. The need to meet gaps in the market and deliver engineered solutions to water sourcing and water transfer gave the company the opportunity to continuously expand its reach as it became involved in, and met the needs of, many varying areas of water solutions within the oil and gas industries.

Jeff Wehler, Director of Business Development at Keystone, explains the evolution of the company in its formative years. “We were formed to support the oil and gas industry as it moved in to Pennsylvania, by sourcing water, which we saw was going to be an immediate need for a lot of these companies,” he says. “There was a high demand for bulk water sources and companies that could supply the water. A natural extension of that was to build pipelines to take the water from those sources to their well paths and their development areas. So we started constructing HDPE pipelines to connect the sources – some of which we own, some of which the companies owned – to the well pads. We would build, construct and operate them.”

The company’s services branched out from there to its present position as a total water solutions company. Keystone supports all aspects of the industry from the sourcing, pipeline construction, temporary pipeline construction and the operation and maintenance of an existing pipeline to on-pad and off-pad pumping and transfer systems, flowback support and, when necessary, trucking water to and from locations.

This start up period for the company has not been without challenges, though. Water solutions to support the oil and gas industry, particularly in the Appalachian Basin where Keystone Clearwater does the majority of its work, are doing very well; the industry is growing and the potential for further expansion is remarkable. However, this rapid development has presented a challenge to the company in the sense that it has had to develop rapidly as an organization to meet the needs of its fast paced growth. Carefully selecting the best employees with the talent and determination to fit in and meet the demands of the industry, has been crucial.

“It was a combination of finding people that had the experience and a robust training program,” explains Mr. Wehler. “The industry was fairly new to Pennsylvania so there were not a lot of local people that had the experience that we seek, so we train and develop our personnel – plus we have a full time recruiter that goes out looking for personnel.

“We have grown our company from zero employees to 250 employees in three years. So there are plenty of challenges in doing that: developing an infrastructure to accommodate rapid growth; finding talented employees that will buy into the fast-paced, ‘Yes-We-Can’ culture of our company; and the professional delivery model that we have for our clients.”

This growth of Keystone Clearwater’s has occurred alongside shifts and changes in the broader industry, and the company has had to keep abreast of the sector’s rapidly changing regulatory environment. “There are quickly implemented regulatory policies and procedures (in Pennsylvania) to manage the oil and gas industry and the markets in which we operate,” Mr. Wehler explains. “We are consistently faced with challenges in managing our business and developing and growing our business.” Complacency in such a field is simply not an option, and Keystone Clearwater makes it a priority to stay on top of industry standards and best practices.

Another challenge for any business involved with the oil and gas industry is the sometimes negative publicity that it receives. Some believe that the practice of hydraulic fracturing is unsafe and harmful to the environment, giving rise to adverse environmental impacts and even the contamination of drinking water supplies. However, Keystone Clearwater argues that these beliefs are basically unfounded. “Some of the criticism [of the oil & gas industry], we would think is a little unfair. In general, the industry has done a great job of recycling water. Early in the industry’s years here, they were using a lot of fresh water; now operators blend and use a lot of their production and flowback water in well stimulation.”

Safety in the industry is critical, and Keystone Clearwater invests a great deal of time and effort in this area, with its own safety trainer and director of health and safety. The company also employs safety professionals specifically charged with ensuring safety in the field. “I think the regulation here in Pennsylvania is probably more stringent than other areas throughout the country, which it should be in order to responsibly develop our natural resources. Those types of strict standards and regulations can benefit a company like Keystone Clearwater because we have an awareness of the regulations, we come from an environmental consulting and engineering background, and we appreciate doing things in a way that protects the environment.”

Given that the industry is so new to Pennsylvania, it is safe to say that Keystone Clearwater has plans to expand its footprint. The industry is rapidly developing and with that will come greater opportunities to service this industry long into the future.

“Our goal is to continue to offer service levels that are superior to the competition. If we do that, I believe that we are going to expand within the current market, and our goal is to expand to other places. We have already done some work in Kansas, Illinois and Indiana where there is considerable opportunity. This is truly a global opportunity and our goal is to grow but also be cautious not to compromise our quality for quantity.”

For more information about Keystone Clearwater, please visit

April 20, 2021, 10:31 PM EDT