Industrialization typically carries the blame for causing the water crisis across the continents, but it also creates and shepherds the innovation and introduction of a plethora of technologies and tools that enable intelligent use of water, intuitive approaches to conserve it, and implementable practices that preserve the watershed and prolong the life of aquifers.
What is new about water scarcity? We hear about climate change; rivers drying up, resulting in tracks of dinosaurs that lived 113 million years ago surfacing at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas; people walking miles for a gallon of water; millions dying each year from water-borne illnesses; glaciers melting; and freshwater aquifers becoming more vulnerable to saline water intrusion. United Nations researchers predict a 20% decline in renewable water resources for every 1°C rise in the world average temperature.
For most of us, this is daily news and we have heard it for many years now. How can the individual, the industry, corporations, and global society wake up to the reality of a drying last well and collectively act to extend life on Earth for another million years?
The first commercial natural gas well was drilled in 1821, and the first oil well was drilled on 27 August 1859. In 2022, global oil production was approximately 93.9 million B/D and natural gas produced was approximately 4.1 trillion m3. On average, between 2 and 5 bbl of water are produced for every barrel of oil and 260 bbl of water for every million cubic feet of natural gas. The older the fields, the higher the water generation. We are talking roughly 300 million–600 million bbl of water generated per day, and, in the last nearly 200 years, technology and corporate citizenship could succeed in recycling or reusing a meager 3 million–6 million BWPD (approximately 1%).
It is acknowledged that political leadership, front-ending innovation, and financing for domestic and commercial viability are essential. In the “quadilemma” between industrialization, agricultural demand, urbanization, and the needs of human and livestock for water, political and financial levers tilt toward industrialization. Hence, industrialization typically carries the blame for causing the water crisis across the continents, but it also creates and shepherds the innovation and introduction of a plethora of technologies and tools that enable intelligent use of water, intuitive approaches to conserve it, and implementable practices that preserve the watershed and prolong the life of aquifers. Desalination, which is still seen as a breakthrough and technology’s most practical solution to alleviate the water crisis, is still expensive when compared with tapping surface water or groundwater. Other smart and superior technologies are evolving, but their success is intrinsically linked to acceptance and adaptation. Once that happens, the lowering of remediation cost eventually will occur. This, complemented by the ease of implementation and reliability, will drive the success of water management and move the 1% of produced-water reuse to a much greater amount.
In this issue, I selected three papers for publication that discuss three different established and emerging approaches that explore cost-effective ways to “move water from the Martian poles to the people.”
This Month’s Technical Papers
Recommended Additional Reading
SPE 213239 Sustainable Ion-Exchange Resins for Produced-Water Treatment by Madina Baltaeva, Aramco Innovations, et al.
Swamy Margan, SPE, is a product line manager at Halliburton and has more than 28 years of engagement with the water-treatment industry in various roles. He holds a degree in chemistry from the University of Madrasa. Margan has authored and presented papers on water treatment and reuse in multiple platforms over the years. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Review Board.