Produced Water is a very salty byproduct of oil and gas production. The ratio of Produced Water to oil increases as the oil well ages and continues to do so for the life of the well. After separating the oil from the produced water, the water still contains small residual amounts of oil. The common practice of further separating that residual free oil from the water is through Oil-Water Separators or what is commonly referred to in the industry as a “Gunbarrel.”
Typically, disposing of the unwanted water is done by pumping it down a Salt Water Disposal (SWD) well. These wells can pump under high pressure and have been linked to the occurrence of earthquakes in places like Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, and are being closely monitored by state authorities. An alternative to disposing of the Produced Water is to treat and recycle it for new oil and gas fracking operations. Nowadays, a single fracking operation runs deeper and longer than in anytime in the past and may use upward of 500,000 barrels of water over a 10 day period. That is up from 100,000 barrels of water per well just a few years ago. All this amounts to about 21 million gallons of water per single fracked well.
A new Duke University study confirmed that the amount of water used per well for hydraulic fracturing surged by up to 770 percent between 2011 and 2016. If this rapid intensification continues, fracking’s water footprint could grow by up to 50-fold in some regions by the year 2030 – reinforcing concerns about its sustainability, particularly in arid or semi-arid regions in western states, or other areas where groundwater supplies are stressed or limited. Currently, most water used to frac with comes from local fresh water aquafers. Unfortunately, once this water is used and disposed of, it can no longer be recycled and is permanently removed from the ecosystem.
What if there was a better option?
Well, now there is: the Ecologix Integrated Treatment System (ITS-1500) is capable of treating 51,400 barrels per day, about twice the volume of the next best alternative. The addition of the ITS-1500 system is both cost-saving and space saving. It also results in cleaner effluent water, raising the industry standards to new levels. Better quality water leads to more options, whether it is destined to be used for Slick-Water Fluid Fracturing, Cross-Linked Fluid Fracturing or disposal into SWDs.
About the Integrated Treatment System (ITS) for Frac Water Management
The ITS-1500 (1,500gpm or 51,400bbl/day) boasts the smallest environmental footprint of previous generations of treatment systems and the largest processing volume. Furthermore, it is the only truly mobile system on the market. Produced Water can be high in Suspended Solids, Oil, Dissolved Metals, Hydrogen Sulfide, and other types of pollutants. Through the use of chemical treatment these contaminates are neutralized and pulled together. The ITS-1500 then separates and removes that sludge from the water resulting in extremely clean effluent that can be recycled and used to frac a new well.
Check out the ITS-1500 in action below.
Pain Points of Salt Water Treatment and Disposal
In the U.S. alone, approximately 20 million barrels (1 barrel = 42 gallons) of Produced Water per day are generated as byproducts of pumping oil out of the ground according to figures from 2017. That’s a lot of salt water to find a way to treat and/or dispose of. The hauling costs alone can be astronomical and eat away at any treatment company’s budget. The ITS-1500 alleviates this pressure by offering easy mobility and a new way to treat and recycle high amounts of salty produced water.
Because this water contains impurities such as hydrocarbons, salts and scalants, it cannot be purified in traditional ways. So treatment options for Produced Water do not include purifying to fresh water standards due to its high salinity levels and the technical challenges associated with that. Instead, this water is often put into salt water disposal wells deep within the earth, where the water is shielded from permeating groundwater. This, of course, remains a concern and a reason for the various states to continue to heavily regulate the practices surrounding this disposal.
The best way to dispose of this water is through reuse to frac a new well, which essentially induces fracturing of the oil and gas-rich shale formations in the earth’s crust in order to extract the valuable hydrocarbons in those formations. Fracking has come under heavy fire as an environmentally harmful practice. But without the option of reuse, where could this Produced Water go? With the use of the Ecologix ITS-1500 system, more water can be safely treated and disposed of. It also saves on the high costs of transport and hauling of water to outside locations for further disposal. This sensible way to recycle the treated water is a win-win-win solution. It’s good for the ranchers, good for the oil companies and good for the environment.
Suspended Solids removal is a top priority for treating produced water, without which the Suspended Solids would end up plugging fractures in the shale formation and reducing the well’s output. The ITS-1500 eases worries by consolidating the treatment process into one efficient piece of equipment. When used in conjunction with an existing salt water disposal well, oil and solids removal leads to better permeability, leading to higher disposal volumes and less well pressure build up.
At a time in which salt water disposal wells are coming under increased scrutiny for their potential to contaminate groundwater and even cause earthquakes, new alternatives are necessary for environmental as well as economic reasons. The Ecologix ITS-1500 stands as the premiere option to save costs, time, labor, and more importantly, the environment.