The development of water sources for EOR; recycling of fracturing water; and management, treatment and disposal of produced water can result in substantial costs for oil and gas project operators.

A 2016 Columbia University and Barclays report said that unconventional drilling accounts for close to half of U.S. oil and gas production, and this production is dependent on reliable and sustainable access to water.

Additionally, according to Fountain Quail’s website, “Across all U.S. shale plays, an average of 12 barrels of water is produced for every barrel of oil. In 2015 approximately 66 million barrels per day flowed out of onshore U.S. oil and gas wells. By 2020 produced water volumes are expected to reach 92 million barrels per day.”

Mark Wolf, director of onshore facilities in the Process and Flow Technologies group for National Oilwell Varco, works extensively on the company’s water management technologies. “The shale players in the Permian Basin are leading the industry out of the downturn,” he told E&P. “There is not enough traditional water supply to sustain drilling and fracking activities, so water treatment, storage, and transportation and reuse of flowback water will be critical to the operators’ success.”

Michael Dunkel, vice president–water at CH2M, added, “I believe that water management for upstream will evolve substantially. Lower cost and more sustainable solutions will be developed over the next few years.”

The following is a sampling of some of the new technologies and products available for water management needs.

Editor’s note: The copy herein is contributed from service companies and does not reflect the opinions of Hart Energy.


In support of the Oklahoma governor’s initiative to reuse or recycle water produced in oil and gas operations, a report assessed the alternatives to injecting produced water from oil and gas wells into disposal wells in Oklahoma. The technical study, led by CH2M, investigated produced water volumes, water quality, top water users and water treatment costs. Ten representative cases were assessed by coupling a produced water user or alternative disposal method to an existing produced water source and evaluating the economics of each case to make recommendations. The costs for the 10 cases range from $0.57/bbl of water to more than $7/bbl of water. Key findings included the discovery that produced water reuse by the oil and gas industry is the most viable cost-effective alternative due to minimal water treatment needs and thus low treatment costs. Also, a special case of water reuse was evaluated using surplus produced water from the Mississippi Lime play area and conveying the water to sites in Blaine County for oil and gas reuse. The study also determined that due to low water treatment costs and potentially limited water conveyance requirements, evaporation technology could be a viable alternative to disposal. In addition, another key finding was that water treatment and desalination techniques are technically implementable but appear impractical at this time.


TEQUATIC PLUS Filters are bringing the next generation in filtration capabilities to the oil field, helping companies protect disposal wells and achieve more economical recycling and reuse of produced water and fracturing flowback. The filters are designed to handle high solids even in the presence of oil, facilitating continuous filtration of particles down to 15 μ in water containing total suspended solids as high as 10,000 mg/L. The result is a high-uptime, low-maintenance option that can reduce worker exposure and the hazardous disposal headache related to consumable filters like bags and cartridges. The automated and continuous self-cleaning features of TEQUATIC PLUS Filters facilitate the handling of highly variable solids loadings and allow them to operate not only as standalone filters but also as protection for finer polishing steps. The compact nature and low-maintenance profile makes the filters well suited for mobile applications and remote oilfield sites. Consequently, companies have been adopting this technology, including one water service provider that is now recycling nearly 100% of its produced water.


Digital H2O, a digital oilfield water management solutions company, recently expanded its Water Asset Intelligence service into Pennsylvania. The platform saves oil and gas service providers and midstream and E&P companies money by giving them the tools they need to efficiently manage water production, transportation and disposal. The service offers strategic and competitive intelligence on water disposal and provides data on oil and gas production from drilled wells, including well characteristics and historical production. Filters (e.g., geography, well type and operator) help users customize their analysis, and well-bywell analysis also is available. One of the platform’s most used features is the water transfer module, where clients can analyze where disposal water is going and discover usage information about disposal wells. “Another new feature we are adding to the Marcellus/ Utica in the coming weeks is transparency into recycling centers. Recycling is also a huge part of the water life cycle in Appalachia,” said Susan Olson, managing director of Digital H2O. In addition to Pennsylvania, Water Asset Intelligence already covers the Permian shale regions in Texas and New Mexico and the Bakken in North Dakota.


To be able to rely on produced water from multiple sources, producers have identified some common key performance metrics for treating produced water to make it suitable for fracturing supply. These metrics typically include iron removal, total suspended solids (TSS) removal, hydrocarbon removal and bacteria disinfection. H2S, where encountered, must be safely eliminated. Another key goal is to keep solids from settling out in pits and containment tanks. Fountain Quail has developed the new generation ROVERXL platform. The ROVER chemical clarification system was developed more than 15 years of pretreatment experience ahead of the company’s NOMAD evaporator systems. Fountain Quail found it to be the lowest operating cost and most adaptable system to effectively remove iron, TSS and hydrocarbons. Solids are removed as a dry cake for disposal. The ROVERXL also features a new flotation section that allows improved hydrocarbon removal. The platform will have 150% of the capacity with a similar footprint (two 15-m [48-ft] long trailers). In addition, one of the largest costs associated with recycling is manpower, so the ROVERXL is designed to be completely automated and failsafe to reduce manpower requirements.


Gradiant Energy Services offers several technologies, including free radical disinfection, selective chemical extraction and carrier gas concentrator for water management and treatment. Free radical disinfection provides short-term kill for disinfecting water with no hazardous chemical handling. The treatment uses salt, water and electricity to generate a mixed solution that provides effective bacteria kill of sulfate-reducing bacteria and acid-producing bacteria. The treatment is a mobile system that treats water on the fly up to a rate of 120 bbl/min. The technology allows operators to ensure that the water pumped downhole and reaching the reservoirs is properly disinfected and treated. Proper disinfection eliminates the long-term problems that can occur from bacteria growth, H2S and corrosion. Selective chemical extraction is a treatment that takes produced and flowback water and recycles the water back to a clean brine reusable for fracturing operations. The technology uses a patented algorithm to develop the chemical dosaging along with a patented lamellae clarifier. The system is designed to treat 10,000 bbl/d in a modular capacity. In addition, the carrier gas concentrator is an evaporation system that runs off of the operator’s field gas to reduce the volume of water the operator is handling on location, significantly reducing trucking cost. This system also is mobile and reduces water volume by using a humidification process. The amount of particulate matter released in the vapor is minimized through the patented technology, the bubble column. The evaporation unit can evaporate about 1,000 bbl/d.


Hexion’s AquaBond proppants, available in 20/40, 30/50 and 40/70 mesh sizes, are an advanced resincoated sand. These proppants use a resin chemistry that reduces the production of formation water compared to traditional proppants while maintaining oil and gas production. This increases the profitability of the well by reducing wastewater storage and disposal costs. The AquaBond proppant’s Stress Bond proppant technology delivers all of the benefits of a curable resincoated proppant, including proppant flowback control, reduction of proppant fines generation, minimization of proppant embedment and enhanced well production, compared to traditional proppants. AquaBond proppants also increase hydrocarbon production, as shown in a recent case study. Results yielded a 36% hydrocarbon production increase over traditional proppants in offset wells in the Granite Wash Formation after 12 months. These proppants are helping operators reduce water, maximize well profitability and lower cost per barrel of oil equivalent. These proppants are being used in multiple basins across North America where minimizing water production is essential. The cost savings to operators combined with the enhanced production will yield improved returns.


Water recycling and/or disposal is becoming increasingly important in unconventional production due to the massive amount of water involved in completion and production processes. Locus Bio-Energy Solutions LLC has developed a patent-pending microbebased clarification treatment specifically designed to separate hydrocarbons from flowback and produced water. This environmentally friendly technology has applications in both water recycling and in disposal well injection of produced water. The company’s product can rapidly demulsify entrained hydrocarbons and destabilize solid suspension impurities such as scale and sand, allowing them to immediately separate out of the brine. The hydrocarbons can then be mechanically recovered to add to oil sales volume while impurities are filtered out. The treatment is nontoxic and easy to implement.

The separation achieved two hours after the microbe-based clarification treatment is shown. (Source: Locus Bio-Energy Solutions LLC)


National Oilwell Varco’s (NOV) horizontal gun barrel offers significant benefits to operators beyond IOR. Designed to be more efficient than traditional or enhanced vertical gun barrels, the NOV horizontal gun barrel is engineered with fracturing flowback and saltwater disposal in mind. Already being adopted in the Permian Basin and Marcellus Shale, a single horizontal gun barrel replaces multiple offload tanks, gun barrels and transfer pumps. The horizontal orientation recovers far more oil with less residence time than a typical vertical gun barrel. Increased hydraulic fracturing activity is leading to more solids in the wellstream, which can mean frequent tank cleanouts. This problem can be eliminated with NOV’s proprietary Tore solids fluidizing technology, which quickly and efficiently removes solids from the horizontal gun barrel without disturbing the separation of oil and water. The horizontal gun barrel also is featured in NOV’s optimized saltwater disposal process, which is designed to deliver better water quality at lower cost and produce cleaner, drier oil. Combined with NOV’s WaterWolf dynamic oil recovery system and desanding skid, the complete suite offers a more efficient option for water recycling.


OriginClear’s Electro Water Separation (EWS) technology efficiently removes nonsoluble organics and inorganics such as free and dispersed oil and suspended solids from produced water. The system uses electricity and nondonating anodes to break the oil/water emulsion and coagulate and float suspended solids and oils to the surface of the water so that they can be easily raked off for recovery or simplified disposal. In a recently added final stage called Advanced Oxidation, the electrical fields already generated remove dissolved contaminants such as ammonia, H2S, metal ions and other chemicals that are hard to remove from influent water. Throughout the process, Advanced Oxidation kills bacteria and oxidizes most heavy metals as well as many miscible and dissolved organic contaminants. The combined technology, EWS:AOx, is modular, energyefficient, continuous and easy to manage. It fits right into any water treatment process and works ahead of filters and membranes to improve final water quality and increase the lifespan of all water treatment equipment. EWS:AOx has been demonstrated to remove 99.9% of turbidity and reduce suspended solids and hydrocarbons to below detection limits on produced water from Colorado gas wells, West Texas intermediate wells, and Monterey and Niobrara formations.


According to Quorum, it is the only software provider that offers water management as part of an end-to-end solution for field data capture, operations management and production reporting. With new capabilities for managing water volumes, capturing water tickets, tracking water movement, forecast scheduling and future state dispatching, energy companies gain real-time visibility into water volumes and balances, locations, potential sources, and destinations. And because water management is an integrated part of myQuorum Field Insights, operators and third parties can capture and upload water tickets electronically from any iOS or Android tablet and then review and validate those tickets with a seamless approval process. With Quorum energy companies can track the movement of all water types from cradle to grave with a single system that allows better regulatory compliance. With fracturing consuming three times more water than a decade ago, water is quickly contributing to the majority of well lease operating expenses. Quorum is addressing this issue by optimizing the way water is managed in the field. By using Quorum’s water management tool, companies are able to optimize the way water is supplied, used, disposed and tracked, ultimately cutting costs and reducing risk.


The EnergyMakers Advisory Group is publishing a comprehensive 300-page metastudy that identifies and qualifies the complex risk factors and recent trends associated with the oil and gas industry’s operational reliance on Class II saltwater disposal wells for the safe and effective disposal of produced water, fracturing water and approved oilfield liquid wastes as well as protection of U.S. drinking water sources. There is a complex array of conflicting information surrounding use and regulation of underground disposal wells, often with politically driven undertones. In an even-handed, fact-based manner, The EnergyMakers Advisory Group explores these underground injection control (UIC) issues at a macro, regional and local level supported by detailed maps, relative risk weighting factors, and charts and indices allowing operators to identify those assets and UIC formations with higher relative risk that may bear more detailed exploration or risk mitigation. The coverage universe includes a deep dive into each of the leading onshore U.S. basins covering basin and region-specific injection, seismicity, formation health risk indicators, scientific underpinnings, regulatory and litigation landscapes, operations continuity and best practice considerations, region-specific opportunities for risk reduction, and new investment frontiers.


Veolia has developed ShaleFlow, a cost-effective mobile system for treatment and reuse of flowback and produced water from hydraulic fracturing operations. This compact, transportable system incorporates proven technologies in a three-trailer configuration with the flexibility to be moved as the field is developed. ShaleFlow can treat up to 10,000 bbl/d and accept a wide range of influent water quality containing up to 300,000 total dissolved solids. The system removes particulates and scale-formers to low levels, generating water quality suitable for reuse in fracturing and completion operations. Water treatment and reuse reduces freshwater demand, recovers oil from produced water and minimizes produced water disposal costs. Another Veolia product released this year is the CoStrip degasifier. CoStrip effectively removes dissolved gases such as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene), volatile organic compounds, CO2 and H2S without the need for pretreatment. Typically installed as part of a treatment train that enables surface water discharge, CoStrip minimizes the capex and opex costs of the overall system. Its effective operation reduces chemical and sludge costs when paired with chemical softening and extends the life of reverse osmosis membranes.


The Victaulic Refuse-to-Fuse joining system for high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe is a line of small and large-diameter couplings, fittings, transitions and accessories that can join SDR 7 to 21 HDPE pipe up to 10 times faster than fusion—the common method used in connecting water and slurry HDPE lines. The Victaulic system eliminates the need for fusion, providing a faster, simpler joining method that can be used in a variety of applications including flowlines, water transportation, fracturing ponds, water treatment, saltwater disposal and facility construction. Produced water transportation and disposal costs can represent half of a shale well’s operating expenses and is one of the biggest challenges facing an operator’s bottom line. To put a lid on these costs, operators are building their own production and water disposal facilities instead of relying on third-party waste management companies. Victaulic’s HDPE system is helping shale operators build saltwater disposal facilities faster with lower overall installed costs. The couplings can be easily installed in vertical orientations as well as in tight spaces using simple hand tools and can be reused from site to site. Victaulic’s Refuse-to-Fuse system has been successfully deployed by major operators in several shale plays, including the Permian and Eagle Ford.

The speed and ease of installation of the Victaulic HDPE joining system enabled Atlas Resources to construct its Hamman saltwater disposal facility in just 10 days vs. six weeks with fusion. (Source: Victaulic)


Electrocoagulation (EC) treatment for shale play well flowback fluids dates back to the early 2000s. Its role is the heartbeat in many flowback fluid treatment processes. It breaks emulsions and reduces insoluble and soluble hydrocarbons, heavy metals, suspended solids, organics and bacteria concentrations at efficiencies exceeding 98%. Traditional EC methods, however, have a problem— passivation. This detrimental challenge causes oxide scale or coating buildup on the system’s electrodes, adding significant costs in manpower, power consumption, efficiency and disposal. Passivation can quickly cause treatment efficiency degradation and shutdown for costly electrode (plate) cleaning or replacement. Water Vision Inc. has developed a proprietary ThinCell EC technology that completely eliminates passivation. The technology uses sacrificial electrodes consisting of a common waste product that are completely consumed and efficiently replenished without costly unit downtime. There is no need for electron/ plate removal for cleaning (acid wash or grinding) or replacement. Passivation elimination preserves the necessary electrical amperage for the cell operation, lowering power requirements and usage. ThinCell technology increases uptime, reduces maintenance and lowers both costs and safety risks. Because of its technology, the ThinCell has a small footprint and is available in a variety of mobile configurations and flow rates from five to greater than 500 gal/ min.