Water Management is a complex endeavor and full of many challenges, especially
in the onshore, unconventional, produced water market. This is basically the
produced water from hydraulic fracturing, which has become—at least in North
America—the largest produced water market, due to sheer volumes of water.
technology side, you
have differing water qualities from well to well and different water qualities
from area to area. You have the majority of the water coming from the Permian basin,
with a range of 150,000-300,000 ppm of high total dissolved solids (TDS). Then,
you have some areas with relatively low TDS
under 30,000 ppm, in places like the Eagle Ford and Powder River basin.
Then, you have the difference between flowback water, your first 30 days of
water production from a new well, which will include your frac chemicals, and
you transition into your ongoing produced water that is more like formation
water without the frac chemicals.
You also have
the chemistry challenge of high bacteria loads, high iron and sometimes high
sulfides; but again, these parameters all vary widely, while having different
treatment standards from operator to operator. Now, add the regulatory
complexity, which varies from state to state. You can, for example, recycle in
Texas under Permit by Rule, but other states will require permitting. Some
locations have power available, while many others don’t.
volumes can vary widely from 25,000 to 30,000 bpd to 80,000 to 110,000 bpd. You
may have to ramp up your capacity in a very short time from 30,000 to 50,000 bpd and go to 100,000 bpd with very little notice. Additionally, this may be for a
couple months and then nothing for a couple months or, in some cases, it can be
year-round. More commonly, there will be weeks to months of periodic breaks,
due to scheduling of frac fleets, oil pricing or other factors.
seismicity factor. Today,
we have seismicity as the newest variable added. In very general terms, you are
sending about 70% of produced water to a disposal well and recycling 30%. The
recycling rate is growing, partly because earthquakes are impacting disposal
volumes and, as a result, more water is being redirected. Again, this is even more
complex: some operators are restricted by landowners from recycling or are
required to purchase water from landowners. They also may be locked into water
purchase agreements that require water purchases. Even with an increase in
recycling, we are not likely to offset the lost disposal capacity, due to
has created a new complexity and that is getting to discharge quality to remove
capacity from disposal wells. Now, you have a larger technical, chemical and
regulatory burden to overcome and a much higher cost, but this is the future of
the industry. I’ve discussed this complexity before, so why am I revisiting
seminar adds value. I
recently attended the Produced Water Society Annual Seminar in February. This
is one of the few places where all the stakeholders meet and discuss these
complexities. You have operators, service companies, equipment suppliers, regulators,
chemical suppliers, industry groups, academia and other stakeholders in the
room, sharing insights, latest research, new trends, technical and chemical
challenges, and the newest regulations.
Water Society (PWS) Annual Seminar was held on Feb. 6–9 in Houston, Texas, at
the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria. There is a mix of presentations and panel
discussions on technology and chemistry challenges, regulatory updates, pending
legislation, new technologies, onshore and offshore markets, capital markets,
heavy oil and oil sands, academic research and study results, sustainability
and ESG. Every imaginable topic is covered, using roundtable discussions, panel
discussions or presentations. This is a widely attended event that brings
people from all facets of the produced water industry from across the globe.
their first meetings back in 1990, which were focused primarily on offshore
produced water management. PWS was formally incorporated in 1999 as a 501 (c)
(3) organization. In about 2012, with the growth of the unconventional oil
market, PWS became more onshore-focused. In about 2017, onshore became their
primary focus, while still maintaining an offshore component to their events.
mission and benefits.
Their mission has been “to improve the management and disposition of produced
water, through the facilitation and exchange of technical knowledge.” Unlike
other organizations, PWS has taken on a leadership role, including defining a
standard for produced water recycling at a time when there was no consensus.
This standard is used today by operators and midstream operators and
incorporated into service agreements and contracts. Through their Board of
Directors and Technical Committees, there is a collaboration between operators,
midstreams, regulators, academia, technology providers and service companies
that is truly unique. Their global membership has ranged up to 1,500 members,
with almost 7,000 online/virtual members and followers on social media platforms.
its benefits, as well, including access to a massive library of 33 years of
technical publications and papers, access to free webinars and podcasts, access
to their newsletter, continuing education credit opportunities, discounts to
seminars, workshops and training, discounts on published technical journals and
books, as well as an opportunity to publish technical papers. I know this is beginning
to sound like a PWS commercial, but I feel it necessary to applaud and
recognize their efforts.
collaboration. You see,
it takes collaboration between all the stakeholders to establish a consensus,
to allow for progress to take place. And as an industry, there are not many
opportunities to participate in this collaboration and learn from it. At this
year’s event, there were some great topics and insightful discussions and
dialogue. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but when you’re part of a
growing and maturing industry that is changing rapidly, it takes that type of
engagement to stay in tune with your industry. I encourage you to go to https://www.producedwatersocity.com
to learn more.
Many of the
topics I cover in my column are addressed and discussed at the annual seminar. If
we want to grow as an industry, we need to get involved in vital organizations
like PWS, so we can learn and grow as individuals but also as a community and
industry. Change is coming, whether you like it or not, so stay engaged and
educated by collaborating with like-minded and focused individuals. This is a
great way to do it. See you next column. WO
MPATTON@HYDROZONIX.COM / MARK PATTON is president of Hydrozonix, an oil and gas-focused water management company.
He is a chemical engineer with more than 25 years of experience developing new technologies for wastewaters and process residuals.