Optimizing Fracking Water, Wastewater Management


by | Apr 1, 2016

frackingAs the number of fracking operations increases in the US, so does the stress on water supplies.

Oil and gas wells use as much as 1 million gallons (almost 24,000 barrels) of fresh water per wellhead, according to WesTech Engineering, which manufactures process equipment for the industrial, mineral, municipal water and wastewater industries.

Another major environmental concern: the growing volume of wastewater that fracking generates. WesTech says up to 60 percent of the water injected into a wellhead (potentially 600,000 gallons) during the fracking process will discharge back out of the well as flowback wastewater.

This creates a financial challenge for oil and gas companies as well. According to the WesTech article, the hauling costs for wastewater for deep-well injection ranges between $3 and $7 per barrel. It estimates hauling water off-site for disposal over the 20 year life of a fracking well project costs $160 million, which includes trucking costs, water disposal costs and labor.

Both of these challenges are driving new water management and treatment technologies that aim to minimize stress on freshwater sources and lower water treatment costs.

One solution is centralized treatment of wastewater, which WesTech says can help fracking operations improve long-term efficiency in water management and wastewater treatment.

Centralized treatment facilities handle both the flowback wastewater and produced wastewater from oil and gas wells within a 40- to 50-mile radius. Pipelines connect all wellheads directly with the central treatment plant. The plan identifies which well the wastewater comes from. It processes wastewater to meet individual plants’ targeted usage requirements. After treating the wastewater, it then pipes it directly to the well site.

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