Technologies, Innovations Advance Water Stewardship
Posted August 29, 2018
Responsibly managing water resources is fundamental to modern natural gas and oil development. The U.S. energy renaissance is being driven by high-tech hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and those processes use water to produce the natural gas and oil that run our economy and the daily lives of individual Americans.
Though the amount of water used for energy is a fraction of overall water use by society – a Texas report pegged it at less than 1 percent of the state's total water, industry knows that water is critically important to the welfare of the communities that host natural gas and oil development. Which is why individual companies are focused on cutting-edge technologies, systems and facilities to reuse water in their operations.
Water treatment decisions hinge on the availability of treatment infrastructure, the quality of water needed for operations, transportation systems and the proximity of enough wells to capitalize on access to reused water. Although there’s no single approach that applies to every site, a 2014 Artemis Project report found that competition for mobile water treatment options in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale created competition similar to the market dynamics that helped shrink the size of cellphones.
Bottom line: Using less freshwater to develop energy is important to communities and the environment – and it’s smart business as well. Examples of these technologies abound.
Newfield Exploration Company’s 30-acre Barton water recycling facility in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, just completed a year of operations, allowing Newfield to save more than 7 million barrels of freshwater in that time.
Reed Durfey, Newfield water and technical services manager at the facility:
“It’s operating as planned. … Overall the project in our eyes has been a huge success. We’re continuing to recycle and reuse the waters that are coming out. … Every barrel of recycle we use is a barrel of freshwater that’s not going to be used.”
Durfey says the facility can process 30,000 barrels of water a day. This includes water from the hydraulic fracturing fluid used to develop wells and naturally occurring water from deep in the earth that’s produced when you build any natural gas or oil well.
That saves 30,000 barrels of freshwater a day and eliminates 250 truckloads of water that otherwise would be transported over county roads. It also eliminates the need to dispose of produced water in injection wastewater wells.
Newfield uses a network that includes more than 160 miles of buried water pipeline to deliver water to and from the multi-million-dollar Barton facility. The plant uses natural and enhanced bioremediation – good bacteria and nutrients – to separate and break down contaminants from inbound water. The result is water that’s free of most impurities, similar to what may be found in reservoir rock, which then is available for new well operations. Durfey:
“The big thing in every industry is you’ve got to be a steward of the communities you’re coming into. Coming in here and building a (water) recycling facility is absolutely the right thing to do for industry because it gets us less dependent on freshwater … The local officials and residents, they rely on that water to do their crops and gardening or just to drink, so everything that we can do to recycle what in the past we had classified as a waste stream … now we know that we can turn into a renewable stream and become less freshwater dependent. It’s our obligation to strive to do that in every place that we can.”
Here's an Oklahoma Energy Resources Board video on Newfield's project:
Others companies are involved in recycling/reuse, because technologies are advancing to support it. Jeff Gunderson writes in Industrial WaterWorld:
Meaningful advancements in purification technologies have allowed for significantly higher standards of industrial wastewater treatment while also expanding opportunities for reusing water in a growing variety of capacities. This is especially evident in the conventional sector of the oil and gas industry, where a combination of key drivers and the availability of increasingly robust and cost-effective treatment processes are spurring more initiatives that seek to maximize the amount of produced water and refinery wastewater that can be reused for beneficial purposes.
It's a rapidly developing technology. Here are just a few examples:
- Chevron works with Veolia North America to treat produced water from its San Ardo field in Southern California, treating 50,000 barrels a day. Veolia’s OPUS technology removes contaminants through a multiple-treatment process, resulting in freshwater that can be used to recharge aquifer basins and for steam generation used to recover more oil from reserves.
- Another Veolia project at the 112-year-old Arroyo Grande Oil Field near San Luis Obispo – which sends about 1,500 barrels of oil a day to Phillips 66’s Santa Maria Refinery – uses ceramic membranes and Veolia’s first-generation treatment technology to treat to drinking water standards about 12,000 barrels of water from oil operations every day. The water then is released into a nearby creek. A video:
- Water Planet’s Intelliflux design, an automated and self-adapting system, optimizes the performance of ultrafiltration membranes in real time. A pilot in successfully processed 10 different kinds of produced water from a group of California oil producers.
- Fort Worth-based Bosque Systems is active in the Permian Basin, leasing land to set up 40,000-barrel tanks of recycled water and equipment for treatment so that the water may be used again by operators.
- Gradiant Energy Services’ membrane-free desalination process removes water vapor from produced water, leaving behind only contaminants, according to Rigzone.com. An onsite system recovers the purified water through a dehumidification process that’s powered by natural gas or an available heat source.
Again, this is just a sampling. Advancing these technologies is an imperative, one that’s taking hold and helping everyone use less freshwater. Texas A&M scientist Dave Burnett to Rigzone:
“No one is using fresh water aquifers’ groundwater for oil and gas operations. Brackish ground water and recycling and re-use fills the need for shalers.”
Ed Candia and Kushal Seth of FMC Technologies, writing for American Oil & Gas Reporter:
With a water recovery rate between 90 and 98 percent, depending on the quality of the treated volume, the cost savings that come from using these advanced technologies is significant. Reusing produced and flowback water means lower freshwater usage, trucking and storage, and the cumulative cost savings associated with those activities only increase when treating water from multiple wells on a pad or multiple pads in a field area. Water recycling also means less water transport trucks on the road, which means less risk for a traffic incident, less road repairs and less truck noise for communities where hydraulic fracturing and conventional drilling are taking place, creating a win/win situation for all parties.
Water management is fundamental to responsible energy development. Rapid growth in natural gas and oil development brings a number of challenges that are being met to safeguard employees, the environment and the communities that host energy operations.
Constant development of new technologies and procedures to reduce freshwater use and to reuse water produced during well construction is basic to good resource stewardship.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and five grandchildren.
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