Wastewater Handling for Oilfield Operators
Conventional Methods of Wastewater Handling for Oilfield Operators are Outdated
Extraction of one barrel of oil—a volume equivalent to approximately 159 liters—in the U.S. produces an average of seven barrels of wastewater that’s laden with metals, salts, and sometimes toxic processing chemicals, making wastewater handling for oilfield operators a huge burden. In fact, in terms of volume, the oil industry’s number one product isn’t oil – it’s wastewater. Conventional methods of wastewater handling for oilfield operators are costly and can contaminate nearby land and water.
So where does all this wastewater go? The water that comes out of the ground with oil and gas—known as produced water—is initially stored in tanks or pits near the oilfield. In rare cases, oilfield operators treat and reuse the wastewater on site, but the vast majority of it is then transported by pipeline or by truck to other areas, where operators inject it deep underground, often into decommissioned oil wells, for permanent disposal.
Each step of conventional wastewater handling for oilfield operators carries environmental and financial risk. Transporting wastewater, whether by truck or through pipeline, creates opportunities for spills. Underground injection also brings problems, as the changes to pressure and geology resulting from the injection of millions of liters of wastewater can lead to groundwater contamination and even increase the likelihood of earthquakes.
Improved Wastewater Handling Technology
New technology from MGX Minerals and PurLucid Treatment Solutions separates impurities from oil and gas wastewater and produces clean water as a final product, vastly improving upon conventional methods of wastewater handling for oilfield operators. To address the enormous challenge of oil and gas wastewater, the two companies began at the nano-level. They developed a nanofiltration process that can rapidly process the high volumes of wastewater generated by the industry, produce treated water suitable for reuse, and recover valuable minerals such as lithium. This method offers an environmentally safer, lower-cost approach to wastewater handling for oilfield operators – in addition to providing the potential for new revenue streams.
The nanofiltration process can be applied to all methods of oil production: oil sands, hydraulic fracturing, and conventional oil extraction. By treating the water on site, this new technology eliminates the need for transporting wastewater to other locations, thereby reducing spill risk. The system also has a new, added benefit: the recovery of minerals, including lithium, which is in high demand for electric vehicles and energy storage batteries.
The end result of this new and improved process of wastewater handling for oilfield operators is recycled wastewater that can be reused – depending on the level of purity – for industrial processes such as enhanced oil recovery or crop irrigation. Under certain conditions, the produced water can be treated to allow for safe disposal into waterways in compliance with applicable regulations. In addition to creating a new source of lithium, this method is a faster method of lithium production, requiring a few days rather than the many months needed in conventional lithium extraction.