Breakthrough Mobile Water Treatment Converts 75% of Fracturing Flowback Fluid to Fresh Water and Lowers CO2 Emissions
- Aaron Dell Horn (Newfield Exploration)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Americas E&P Environmental and Safety Conference, 23-25 March, San Antonio, Texas
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2009. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2.7.1 Completion Fluids, 6.5.2 Water use, produced water discharge and disposal, 6.5.1 Air Emissions, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 3.2.6 Produced Water Management, 4.3.4 Scale, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.6 Natural Gas, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 6.5.4 Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 5.8.2 Shale Gas, 1.6 Drilling Operations
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Treating and recycling flowback from a hydraulically fractured gas shale reservoir is vital to the development of several shale plays. The use and disposal of water in emerging shale plays is expensive and a significant public and political concern. A breakthrough in water treatment combines an advanced oxidation process (AOP) using ozone and ultrasonic transducers to oxidize heavy metals, soluble and insoluble organics. When combined with reverse osmosis (RO) in a mobile unit, this process allows for significant volumes of flowback to be returned to the environment as fresh, clean water, thereby significantly reducing truck traffic. The hydraulic fracturing process in the Woodford Shale requires 50,000 to 110,000 barrels of water per well. By treating flowback on location with the AOP/RO process, 75% of the volume treated will become clean water with total dissolved solid levels less than 500 ppm. 25% will be clean, concentrated brine water which can be used in subsequent hydraulic fracturing operations. Newfield Exploration executed a pilot 4Q08 during which flowback was processed on location with an AOP/RO unit. Sample analysis from this pilot will be provided to state and federal agencies as a validation of the technology. The mobile unit processed 100 barrels per hour using 220 kW power generation to provide a fresh water stream and brine stream from flowback. The proper application of the AOP/RO process could reduce the fluid disposal carbon footprint by 50 tons of CO2 per well and transform a large portion of industry water use from consumptive to non-consumptive—as much as 25,000 bbl per well. The AOP/RO process could untangle complex operating environments, reduce operating expense and help the environment.
Consumptive water use during hydraulic fracturing operations in natural gas producing shale plays has become an issue in the development of the Marcellus Shale, the Barnett Shale, and the Fayetteville Shale. In the Marcellus, disposal of fluid via injection well is perceived by some as a threat to the aquifer that supplies much of metropolitan New York. In the Barnett Shale, finding enough water for hydraulic fracturing is an issue and operators are forced to recycle. For the first time, injection wells in the Barnett are falling under intense scrutiny. In the Fayetteville Shale, operators have had the leniency to land farm flowback and produced fluid, but the state recently placed a moratorium on these operations. Operators are now paying significant trucking costs to truck flowback and produced fluid from Arkansas to Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, state agencies are reevaluating the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, to include allocation of water to the oil and gas industry for the next 50 years.
Several different water recycling methods are being tested, some that are successful at high costs to the operator and some that simply don't work. A new method of water treatment has surfaced involving an advanced oxidation process combined with traditional reverse osmosis to create high quality fresh water from a flowback stream. A pilot in November 2008 proved this technology in the Woodford Shale.
Woodford Completion Operations
Completion Fluid, Flowback, and Produced Fluid Woodford Shale completions require approximately 94,000 bbl of completion fluid for a 4600 ft lateral. The majority of this completion fluid is surface water from ponds, lakes or creeks pumped from sources close to the wellhead. Operators in the Woodford will use more fresh water because it is cheaper to pump fluid to location than to truck it. 89,000 bbl of surface water may cost $72,000 to buy, move and store with pipe and pump. To truck that volume would cost $300,000.
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