Issue 102 – Cleaning 500,000 gallons of oilfield produced water daily in Midland, TX
What is produced water?
Produced water is water found in the same formations as oil and gas. When the oil and gas flow to the surface, the produced water is brought to the surface with the hydrocarbons. Produced water contains some of the chemical characteristics of the formation from which it was produced and from the associated hydrocarbons.
Produced water may originate as natural water in the formations holding oil and gas or can be water that was previously injected into those formations through activities designed to increase oil production from the formations such as water flooding or steam flooding operations. In some situations additional water from other formations adjacent to the hydrocarbon-bearing layers may become part of the produced water that comes to the surface.
Why is produced water a problem for the oilfield industry?
- The United States has 1 million producing oil and gas wells and nearly everyone generates water. The sheer volume of produced water is staggering. During 2012 (the most recent year data is available) is 21.2 billion barrels or 890 billion gallons was produced; and was disposed of. per year. Niney-seven percent (97%( of the water was produced in 21 states with Texas generating one third of the total produced water . Just pumping that water back down is a waste of a tremendous resource.
- Water resources are declining especially in West Texas and Western United States. Cleaning and reusing produced water is a very sound sustainable energy practice.
- Oklahoma Regulators issued new limits to produced water being pumped underground. A recent study links produced water to the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in Oklahoma.
- Cushing, Oklahoma residents seek class-action lawsuit against oil companies over earthquakes.
What are the produced water solutions? Two processes discussed.
#1. In Midland, Texas Gradient Technology is being used to clean 500,000 gallons of water per day. The Midland plant is proving more economical than the old strategy of re-injecting produced water back into the wells, while purchasing clean water for the fracking operations.
The project is being joint ventured with Pioneer Natural Resources. Pioneer claims it is able to re-use nearly 100% of its produced water and recycles 85% of the heat needed to keep the system running.
#2. Our American Mud Works, LLC project in Ohio will be using a ceramic membrane process that has low requirements of preliminary treatment with minimum need for support and maintenance.
Ceramic materials are very stable chemically, thermally, and mechanically. The benefit to the operator is no additives are needed and the process is not temperature sensitive. Filtration with ceramic is a mild process with running cost limited by a closed production cycles and continuous process.
American Mud Works expects to clean 82,000 gallons of water per day with this first installation.
The oilfield industry is being pushed by regulators and possible lawsuits to adopt sustainable energy practices. In locations of water shortages, such practice is imperative. However, at least in the case of Pioneer Natural Resources in Midland, Texas, re-use of produced water is more economical then the old strategy.
Re-using waste water is and can be adapted by other industries such as chemical, metal, textile, food and beverage. Maybe the oilfield industry will lead the way to sustainable water usage practices.
For more information, contact Bill Moist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: “About Produced Water,” Produced Water Treatment and Benefical Use Information Center; “Water Treatment Solutions,” Lenntech, BV; “Solving The Clean Water Crisis With Sustainable Energy,” Science Can Change The World, 29 February 2017