Natural gas and oil production require water. We rely on finding innovative solutions through technology applications to reduce business risks and address local community concerns around water resources, treatment and management of produced water.
Offshore, we treat produced water to remove dispersed oil prior to discharge, we disinfect seawater used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and we remove dissolved solids in water to avoid the buildup of scale. Onshore, we treat produced water or process water to remove certain organics, dissolved solids and dissolved gases like H₂S to avoid the buildup of scale and to enable storage, recycling, discharge or disposal. Innovative water technologies can optimize processes, reduce costs, improve efficiency and reduce potential impact on the environment.
New water technology must be customized and tested by our engineers to ensure it is effective for local water and reservoir conditions. Whether a technology is capable or fit for deployment is expressed as the technology readiness level (TRL). We use nine TRLs, ranging from TRL 1 (paper studies of basic properties) to TRL 9 (multiple production units integrated into operations).
Our Bartlesville Technology Center (BTC) and Global Water Sustainability Center (GWSC) collaborate on research and feasibility studies to develop new game-changing technologies, but most water technology programs focus on evaluating and customizing available commercial technologies through lab and field tests. This process was highlighted as we worked to implement a large-scale recycle project in the China Draw area of the Delaware Basin that would reduce both the amount of water withdrawn from local, mostly non-fresh sources used for hydraulic fracturing and the amount of produced water requiring disposal by deep well injection.
Work during the early technology development stage was led by our global Production Assurance (PA) experts in Houston with support from BTC in collaboration with external technology partners. PA is an integrated multidisciplinary engineering- and laboratory-based team that works closely with the GWSC, our global wells group, and other technical functions. The team provides water management services including treatment expertise, scale inhibition, corrosion and biological control, sand management, fluid characterization and flow modeling. The BTC provides scientific, analytical and technical water treatment support, including lab experiments, pilot tests, fluid sampling and demonstration test support that evaluates new technologies or qualifies available commercial technologies for produced water treatment and recycling for hydraulic fracturing.
Innovation at China Draw
The development stage of the produced water recycle project at China Draw started with bench-scale laboratory testing in a simulated environment using produced water samples from operating assets and focused on developing a fit-for-purpose treatment approach for reuse during hydraulic fracturing. Once the concept was developed and validated in the lab, the PA team collaborated with asset water experts, operations teams and the engineering contractor to design and conduct a pilot-scale field test. As part of this pilot test, the design limits of the technology and compatibility of actual treated produced water with fracking additives were evaluated. The next step after the successful pilot test was a demonstration-scale field test during which multiple wells were fracked using treated produced water and the results compared to wells completed without produced water. The results confirmed that the produced water from China Draw wells is suitable for commercial-scale recycling. The entire process from lab and pilot testing, planning, infrastructure installation to full-field operation took several years as this was one of the first type of produced water recycle application in the industry. Produced water recycling at China Draw not only reduces the amount of water we need to withdraw from local water sources, but also reduces water operating costs, translating into significant project savings. Watch Managing Water at China Draw.
Global Water Sustainability Center
Our GWSC in Qatar develops innovative solutions for water management from natural gas and oil operations. Programs focus on providing specialized technical engineering and analytical support to our global operations and Qatargas, conducting applied research to qualify advanced technologies for operations, and organizing outreach activities related to water sustainability. The GWSC manages our Water Solutions Technology Toolbox, an internal technology-sharing website capturing the latest water treatment experience from full-scale operations, field trials and bench tests.
Examples of 2018 technical projects include:
- Specialized flow assurance support to Qatargas in both LNG and refinery operations.
- Evaluating osmotic concentration, an advanced low-energy, low-cost technology for produced water volume reduction.
- Developing analytical methods for monitoring corrosion inhibitor residual concentrations in North Sea operations.
The GWSC also features a visitor center where students and teachers experience hands-on displays promoting the value of water and conservation. The center promotes water sustainability within Qatar with a variety of local outreach initiatives including a sustainability video competition for students, a debate and discussion forum and various collaborative programs with Kahramaa, the Qatar water and electricity utility.