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Looking for alternate sources with brackish water

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Marc Bellanger, Bosque Systems, looks at how companies can make use of brackish water as a sustainable water source for oil and gas operations.

The shale oil and gas industry’s thirst for water has revealed challenges in sourcing a sufficient amount to sustain the level of completion activities. This is particularly true in drought-ravaged regions of Texas. Bosque Systems is partnering with major oil and gas operators to recycle produced and flowback water and treat those sources to make them suitable for use with frac packages. Bosque engineers and builds gathering, treatment, and storage solutions by studying the full lifecycle cost of the water for a specific operator. Based on the operator location, volumes, drilling schedule, water sources, and quality in that specific region, cost-effective recommendations are made. The process has been growing to the point that Bosque treated and managed nearly 200 million bbls of produced and flowback water for oil and gas operators in 2013.

In some markets, brackish water can be a sustainable source. The Permian and Cline regions in particular, where the drought in the past years has put a stress on freshwater sources, produced and flowback water may not be sufficient. “Our goal is to reuse 100% of produced and flowback water from an operator,” said Peter Pappas, vice president of business development for Bosque Systems. “But sometimes, additional volumes are required. We are constantly looking at how we can reduce the cost for the operator and how to provide environmentally friendly solutions to reduce freshwater usage,” he continued. Brackish water is moderately saline water (not as salty as seawater), and has many advantages, as it is very abundant in west Texas. However, brackish water represents a challenge as it contains elements that require removal to make this source frac-ready. "One of the major issues to overcome with this particular water is that it contains sulfate," Robert Mitchell, vice president of technology for Bosque Systems said as he talks about the Santa Rosa aquifer in the Permian Basin. If the sulfate combines with barium and strontium (elements that are found in underground water lying alongside underground oil and gas formations), the sulfate scale can “damage the well,” he said. Bosque Systems removes the sulfate during the treatment process with a cost-effective, safe technology.

Bosque’s AnCat™ ion exchange system operates 24/7 with no downtime even when necessary maintenance is performed. The AnCat systems can be used to target specific components in the water and can be designed to “fit-to-size” without limitations on the volume of water it treats. The unit can be remotely monitored and allows for data to be sent to any computer in real time. “This gives us continuous feedback on the performance of AnCat and allows us to make changes rapidly on-the-fly to maximise the treatment potential of our units,” continued Robert Mitchell.

Typical performance / effectiveness of AnCat™ with various contaminants:

Sample point*  Reduction  Trouble Caused 
Manganese 99%  Frac damage 
Sulfate 98%  Scale 
Total iron  84%  Plugging; frac damage 
Bicarbonate  73% Scale 
Calcium 31%  Scale; frac damage 
TDS  14%  Frac damage 
*Note that each situation may differ in results observed.

In a specific example described below, the AnCat unit has been designed to treat up to 10 000 bbls of brackish water a day. Bosque Systems perfected the process and works collaboratively with the operator. After collecting water samples, the company performs detailed tests with an independent laboratory; this important study will reveal what kind of contaminant AnCat will target. All results are discussed with the operator beforehand and a timeline is clearly defined.

The results show while treating about 5000 bpd with one AnCat™ unit, the company reduces sulfate concentration from 150 ppm down to 2 to 6 ppm. “Our contract with this specific customer is to reduce the concentration below 20 ppm, so we are well under those levels with AnCat,” Robert Mitchell said. Robert noted that the unit can hold a 0 sulfate residual if needed. The onboard analyser of this unit provides Bosque Systems’ technicians with real time data, including volumes treated and sulfate residuals after treatment.

Date  Total bbls treated daily  Pre-sulfate daily avg.
Post-sulfate daily avg.
(after AnCatTM treatment)
January 18, 2014     5050  143.67  5.67 
January 19, 2014  5115  134.33  5.04 
January 20, 2014 5200  142.67  4.46 
January 21, 2014 5133  130.00  4.54 
January 22, 2014  5110  129.75  2.96
January 23, 2014 5145  125.83  5.33 
January 24, 2014 4160  126.67  2.54 
January 25, 2014 2546  131.63  6.43 
January 26, 2014 5163  130.29  2.17 
January 27, 2014 5032  139.96  4.13 
January 28, 2014 5101  137.33  2.29 
January 29, 2014 4712  142.91  3.83 
January 30, 2014 5428   137.71  3.83 
January 31, 2014 5423  149.17  4.08 

AnCat™ is the first ion exchange unit designed to remove sulfate in the oil and gas industry. “This is a breakthrough moment for the industry as we fill a gap that was desperately needed to reduce freshwater usage”, continued Peter Pappas.

Adapted by David Bizley

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