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Produced water treatment and reuse in hydraulic fracturing: Using laboratory research to select and implement technology at field-scale
  • Shankar Chellam,
  • Ramesh Sharma
Shankar Chellam
Texas A&M University College Station

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Ramesh Sharma
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Reusing produced water for hydraulic fracturing simultaneously satisfies challenges of fresh water sourcing and the design/operation of an extensive disposal well infrastructure. This presentation provides an overview of a reuse program from concept through implementation including qualification of advanced water recycling technologies. We target the most prolific unconventional reservoir play in the United States – the Permian Basin. Sourcing water for full-field development therein represents a significant problem since it is in short supply in (semi)arid regions of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. We report results from a synergistic industry-academia collaboration wherein desalination pretreatment was first evaluated at lab scale to (i) systematically evaluate partial softening (i.e. “floc-and-drop”) versus neutral pH oxidation for iron removal (ii) investigate synergistic effects of FeCl3 and polymer addition to destabilize colloids (including particulate iron) and induce high-rate sedimentation and (iii) develop and implement robust techniques using video and image analysis to characterize process performance and floc properties (e.g. morphology, size, and settling velocity). Jar tests and associated measurements were completed in the range 4 - 44 ºC covering the range of temperatures measured in the Permian. FeCl3 in conjunction with an anionic polymer dramatically improved colloid destabilization and floc growth via enmeshment of primary colloids by amorphous iron precipitates and inter-particle bridging by the adsorbed polymer. Larger, stronger, and denser flocs thus formed settled extremely rapidly without breakage (i.e. high rate sedimentation). Bench-scale results were integrated in the design and testing a 5,000 BPD pilot scale high-rate clarifier. Pilot scale results show that the neutral pH method of clean-brine generation produced 5-10 times less sludge while achieving 15-20% higher throughput over the alternative floc-and-drop method. Both bench- and pilot-scale findings were incorporated in design and operation of a 50,000 BPD full-scale reuse facility in the Permian Basin. This presentation will share lessons learned from operating a large-scale reuse facility and how academic research can inform and be motivated by industrial practices (and vice versa).