Across all U.S. shale plays an average of 12 bbl of water is produced for every barrel of oil. In 2015 about 66 MMbbl/d of water flowed out of onshore U.S. oil and gas wells. By 2020 produced water volumes are expected to reach 92 MMbbl/d, according to the IHS “Future of Water in Unconventionals” study. Industry experts estimate that 2015 oilfield water management costs in the U.S. exceeded $37 billion.

Fountain Quail helps operators reduce their water management costs by integrating its systems into its onsite operations. This also helps the company focus on its core business and meet environmentally friendly objectives like reducing truck traffic and minimizing the use of freshwater. This is accomplished through the use of the company’s proprietary solution set, which includes the chlorine-dioxide (ClO2)-based MAVREX water treating system; the ROVER and NOMAD systems for recycling to clean brine or freshwater; and the MAG Tank solution for containment as well as sourcing solutions, above and below ground pipeline transfer, trucking, and Class II saltwater disposal wells.

Mobile water treatment options

The MAVREX system is a water treatment plant housed inside a trailer. The system can be used at several different points in the water management value chain. ClO2 is a selective disinfecting oxidizer for bacteria control that has been used in various industries in the U.S. for more than 70 years and for more than 20 years in the oil field. While it is both environmentally friendly and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved, it is also extremely effective with a rapid bacteria kill rate and a lower dose rate (compared to traditional biocides), and it’s effective across a broad range of bacteria, fungi, biofilms and viruses. It also is less corrosive than chlorine.

Using a patented method, the system monitors in real time the pretreatment and post-treatment water and self-adjusts the treatment dose as water conditions change. This is in contrast to other systems that rely on fixed-rate dosing and manual sampling with a large margin of error. By automatically adjusting dose rates to changing conditions, chemical usage is optimized, overdosing is prevented, treated water will be bacteria-free and overall costs will be lower.

Treatment and blending occur automatically in the trailer, making the system unique in the industry. There is no need for external trailers or manifolds. Only treated water with low levels of ClO2 leaves the trailer, resulting in much safer operations.

An operator in the Permian Basin recently had a challenge in sourcing water for its high-volume fractures. To meet the demand, the operator resorted to sourcing water from a brackish aquifer, effluent from a local municipal wastewater treatment plant, fresh water from various sources and produced fluid from its own acreage. The treatment demand spectrum of these waters stretched across three orders of magnitude.

The system was used to blend these diverse waters, varying the treatment rates to match the ever-changing demand to achieve the desired water quality, minimizing overall cost and protecting the reservoir from the challenging surges of microbial demand by constantly monitoring, recirculating and treating the working tanks on location.

Treating and recycling

The MAVREX system can stand on its own or serve as a complement to the ROVER and NOMAD recycling systems which, respectively, treat and recycle produced fluids to clean brine for reuse during fracturing or to distilled freshwater for fracturing or surface discharge.

For example, Fountain Quail worked with a large E&P company in the Permian Basin that was having difficulty sourcing an adequate supply of water for hydraulic fracturing. Additionally, capacity at the customer’s saltwater disposal well (SWD) was limited, complicating produced water disposal. The ROVER system was installed at the SWD pad and put the E&P company’s wastewater to work. The company turned a liability into an asset and cut its water management costs by converting its wastewater into its water supply while it was developing wells in the region.

The old paradigm was recycling or disposal. The new approach integrates recycling and disposal to improve water economics. The beauty of this project was its simplicity. The customer aggregated produced water from three nearby SWDs that were connected by existing pipeline. A ROVER system was installed and used the SWD tanks as feed supply tanks. No pad was needed. Instead, the treatment system was located at the SWD pad and was tied into the existing three-phase power that fed the SWD pump. Because the ROVER used significantly less power than the injection pump, the customer saved on power costs while recycling. The company’s infrastructure (gathering lines, gun barrel separator) continued to function as designed. No alteration to the gathering infrastructure was required. This “plug-and-play” integration model has been highly successful and has been replicated in other regions since this initial project.

The clean brine was used successfully for fracture supply on nearby wells. During a six-month period of operation at this location, ROVER recycled 1.2 MMbbl of produced water. The overall water management savings were estimated at 78% during the recycle program.

Modular containment solution

The MAG Tank is cost-competitive compared to traditional earthen impoundments and first-generation aboveground storage tanks. It is a modular aboveground containment tank with a flexible, customizable footprint; multiple capacities; and a solution that significantly reduces truck traffic compared to individual fracture tanks.

The tank’s design features a modular approach with standardized panels. Containment capacities start at 10,000 bbl with designs that exceed 100,000 bbl. After site preparation, the tank is typically installed in one to two days, minimizing downtime, and it can be rapidly broken down, moved to another fracturing site and reassembled in a different configuration.

Recycling and disposal options

In the past operators viewed recycling and disposal as mutually exclusive paths for produced water management. Fountain Quail believes in integrating these paths. By integrating recycling at its disposal facilities, the company can create “water management hubs” for its customers.

For example, the produced water from a region flows to a water management hub that contains a SWD well in addition to a ROVER (clean brine clarification) and NOMAD (distillation) system. This allows producers flexibility based on their water needs.

If wells are being developed nearby with slickwater fractures, producers might opt to recycle enough clean brine (<10 nephelometric turbidity units, pH-neutral) from the hub using a ROVER to meet their demand. If 10# brine is needed, then a NOMAD evaporator system can be used to provide this product along with fresh (distilled) water. The amount of recycling depends on the water needs in the nearby region. The ROVER and NOMAD systems are “plug-and-play” platforms that can be relocated to where they are the most effective.

Waste is transformed into an asset instead of a liability. Producers will find in some regions that the lowest cost and most available fracture supply might be recycled water from a nearby water management hub. If recycled product is no longer required in a region, then the recycling systems can be removed and redeployed closer to the water demand.

The hub concept is all about giving producers optionality to manage their water in the most effective manner possible. It also gives Fountain Quail the ability to repurpose one producer’s waste into a valuable product for other producers in the region. If produced water is trucked to a hub, the same truck can back-haul fracture supply water or 10# brine, thereby doubling the efficiency of the truck so it is not hauling empty in one direction.