Water management

Case Studies in Produced Water Treatment

Three papers selected from 2018 SPE ATCE look at the challenges and approaches to the treatment of increasing volumes of produced water.

Getty Images


Sometimes a number makes you really think twice, and a paper presented at the 2018 SPE ATCE included a number that did just that to me. The second sentence of the abstract for this paper stated “… nearly 100 billion barrels of produced water … is being generated every year from oilfield operations”. One hundred billion barrels: that is roughly three times the volume of oil produced in 2018, or a volume that would fill some 6.4 million Olympic-size swimming pools, or about 13 barrels (550 gallons) of water for every person on Earth (SPE 191749).

However you look at it, it is a lot of water and that volume is only increasing. In that same sentence the authors characterized the produced water by stating it often has total dissolved solids (TDS) higher than seawater.

And with that, you can probably guess the topic for this selection of papers: water treatment.

I chose three papers that were presented at the 2018 SPE ATCE. One addresses separation in general, not just the separation of produced water, and it describes technology that will dramatically reduce the footprint of separator trains as well as the residence time for fluid processing. In other words, “technology that will improve the sustainability of oilfield operations by meeting regulatory goals for water disposal or possibly reuse”.

Another deals with water treatment processes by providing a guide to assess the required fit-for-purpose water treatment in a given shale field.

Finally, a process to mitigate volatile organic compound emissions is described with a focus on a wastewater sump.

All in all, these are interesting papers that cover the water treatment process from different angles, and I hope that you will take the time to read them. The reason is simple: If you are involved with facilities, and I may presume that the readers of this web magazine fall in that category, you have to deal with produced water. There are just no two ways around it, and the content of these papers will help you in dealing with this task.

Technical Paper Synopses

An Overview of Fit-for-Purpose Water Treatment in Permian Shale

Smart-Fluid-Processing System Reduces Footprint, Improves Separation Efficiency

Testing of Two-Stage Biofiltration Unit for Mitigation of VOC Emissions