Addressing Gaps in Water Treatment Technology
- Gina Rowland (Global Water Intelligence) | John Walsh (Cetco Energy Services)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 82 - 88
- 2013. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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As demand for energy continues to rise and conventional sources become more scarce, oil and gas companies are under pressure to pursue production through unconventional methods and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technologies. Nearly all unconventional and enhanced recovery methods involve significant amounts of water and, therefore, specific technical and management challenges related to water.
Not only does this trend have significant implications for the water treatment business, it also calls for a new level of cooperation between the industrial water treatment sector and the oil and gas industry. With the growing and urgent need for better, commercially effective ways to handle produced water from unconventional production, the question of how the oil and gas industry will be able to access the best that the water treatment industry has to offer now shows the beginnings of a possible answer. The water treatment industry has started to appreciate the complexity of water challenges in the oil and gas industry. Likewise, the latter has begun to look to the former for solutions.
This article will review the market drivers and environmental risks behind the rising significance of water treatment in the industry, discuss how some oil and gas producers currently look at the problem of persistent water treatment technology gaps, and point the way forward for better professional collaboration among stakeholders and the development of business opportunities. The time is right for energy companies to see that they have synergies with water companies and for both sectors to recognize that the challenges of water scarcity and environmental protection are, if handled appropriately, opportunities.
The current growth in the water treatment market is directly linked to oil prices and demand. With Brent crude holding just above USD 100/bbl and long-term projections predicting that oil will remain a significant portion of the energy mix, energy producers are approaching the problem of declining production from older reservoirs by extracting as much oil as possible from existing assets through the application of EOR methods, most of which require the injection of large amounts of water (miscible gas being the main exception). Extracting oil from mature fields also means that oil companies have to handle the problem of an increasing water/oil ratio (WOR) in the production process (Fig 1). Water production estimates were approximately 250 million B/D in 2007 for a WOR of approximately 3:1 (SPE, 2011); WOR is expected to reach an average of 12 for onshore crude oil resources by 2025 (GWI, 2012).
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