American Oil and Gas Reporter - August 2017 - 58

SpecialReport: Hydraulic Fracturing Technology

Novel Ideas Simplify Water Recycling
By Colter Cookson

The oil and gas industry spent $16
billion on water management in 2016,
according to market research firm Spears
& Associates Inc. With oil field activity
increasing, laterals lengthening, and hydraulic fracturing designs injecting more
water into each stage, the firm predicts
companies will spend 50 percent more
this year on water management than they
did in 2016.
Producers and the service companies
who treat, transport and dispose of or
recycle water are looking for ways to
minimize the cost. Those solutions range
from more efficient treatment systems
to advanced technologies that extract
valuable minerals from water and databases that make it easier to optimize
water logistics.
In many areas, including the Permian
Basin, operators are treating produced
water and reusing it in completions. According to Mark Patton, vice president
of sales and marketing at Hydrozonix,
recycling can be economically advantageous even for operators that own disposal
wells.
"Producers who operate a disposal
well and have a pipeline to it say their
disposal cost is often below $0.25 for
each barrel of water," he relates. "However,
because many have to pay $0.50 a barrel
to acquire and transport water to a frac
site, they still report savings from recycling
between $0.50 and $0.75 a barrel."
In areas with adequate produced water
volumes, Patton says operators are trying
to include higher percentages of recycled
water in their completion fluids. "We are
seeing them move from blends with 30
percent to ones with 50 percent all the
way to 100 percent," he details.
Because of variations in produced
water volumes and quality, Patton acknowledges that such extreme blends
only work in certain fields and are easier
to achieve with slickwater fracs. However,
he says the industry consensus is that
they can deliver fantastic results. "When
operators design frac chemistry with recycling in mind, which can mean switching
to more salt-tolerant friction reducers or
gels, high-blend completions work as
well or better than ones with lower
blends," he reports.
Sometimes, produced water may im58 THE AMERICAN OIL & GAS REPORTER

prove completion results because it is
more compatible with the formation water,
Patton suggests. "When a freshwater fracturing fluid encounters formation water,
the water will mix and try to reach an
equilibrium, which may cause solids to
form and precipitate out," he says. "These
solids can constrict flow and limit production."

Addressing Bacteria
Whether they are looking to reuse or
dispose of produced water, operators
must treat it to eliminate problematic
bacteria. "Two types are the most concerning," Patton says. "The first is sulfate-reducing bacteria, which can generate
hydrogen sulfide. The second is acidproducing bacteria, which can corrode
pipes and tubulars."
Patton adds that bacteria can form
biofilms inside pipelines and tubulars
that can restrict or stop flow.
To kill bacteria, Patton recommends
oxidizing biocides. "Oxidizers allow us
to verify treatment effectiveness through
several methods, including real-time bacteria testing," he explains. "The constant
checks keep the dosage from getting too
low, which can allow the bacteria to persist, or too high, which creates unnecessary
costs."
Oxidizers also help with iron and sulfide control, Patton notes. He reports that
Hydrozonix's biocide of choice is ozone.
"Ozone degrades quickly, so it will disappear before it has the chance to react
with the friction reducers and gels in the
frac fluid," he says.
The ozone is generated as needed
rather than being stored on site, so there
is no chance of a spill, Patton notes. He
adds that ozone degrades into oxygen, a
big improvement over chlorine dioxide
and bleach, which create byproducts that
can contaminate groundwater in the event
of a spill or leak.
When ozone is being injected into
produced water immediately before a
completion, Patton says it will cost about
the same as traditional biocides. "However,
in applications where we are adding ozone
using an automated, unmanned system,
our operating costs are much lower," he
explains. "For example, we have injected
ozone into produced water pipelines at a
cost of $0.05 a barrel, half that of chlorine
dioxide."

Addressing Scale
As operators experiment with completion fluids containing more produced
water, scale has become a greater concern,
Patton says. "In the past, blend control
has been the primary way to manage
scale," he recalls. "As operators move
toward 100 percent produced water, demand has emerged for pretreatment systems that can soften the water to reduce
its scaling tendencies."
Patton reveals that Hydrozonix is developing self-regulating media for that
purpose. "We are looking to get the price
point for softening from $0.40-$0.60 a
barrel to $0.20-$0.30," he says.
Hydrozonix indicates it has performed
20 tests with a small-scale version of the
technology. "We have had great success
so far," Patton reports. "We are building
our first full-scale system and expect to
have it in operation by the end of the
year."
Even with the best treatment systems,
disposing produced water can make more
sense than recycling it if a well is far
from other activity, Patton allows. However, disposal can be extremely expensive
in areas where geology limits the number
of disposal wells, such as Pennsylvania,
or where concern about induced seismicity
has limited disposal capacity, such as
Oklahoma.
"For these situations, we have developed a produced water evaporator that
runs on field gas," he says. "The evaporator
kills two birds with one stone, reducing
the amount of water that has to be trucked
to a disposal well while eliminating the
need to gather the field gas."

Separating Oil
Robust completion fluids have made
produced water recycling economic, observes Barry Donaldson, global vice president of sales and marketing for TETRA
Technologies Inc. "With completion fluids
that tolerate high total dissolved solids
concentrations, we can reuse water in
most cases with minimal treatment," he
says.
Removing excess oil is one of the
steps the company takes to prepare water
for reuse, says Scott Richie, TETRA's
water management product line manager
for North America. "In many fields, the
oil/water separators at the wellhead occasionally struggle with throughput. When



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