Special crystalline added to concrete shale facility in Permian

By Penetron | December 06, 2018

The large saltwater disposal tanks at the Balmorhea Shale Oil Facility in West Texas, completed in November 2018, included PENETRON ADMIX in the concrete. The integral crystalline admixture provides the new concrete structure with crucial resistance to the penetration of chloride ions in the brine solution—adding durability to the new tanks.

Balmorhea is in the Madera Valley of deep west Texas, 175-miles southeast of El Paso and 75-miles south of the Texas-New Mexico border. This is the Trans-Pecos region of western Texas, an inhospitable landscape of creosote, cactus and hardscrabble earth. Shale oil facilities are a common occurrence in this region.

The disposal facilities of the Balmorhea oil-fracking site store the brine, previously injected into the oil-heavy shale layers far below the ground, in large salt water disposal tanks. The brine residue in these tanks contains oil and gas deposits and a significant amount of salt water.

Just as construction of the disposal tanks was to begin, observation of damage to other concrete structures in the region led to the collection of further soil and water samples. The samples indicated high salinity, far exceeding the 150 parts per million of sulfate considered dangerous to ordinary concrete. Consequently, MBA Construction, the project contractor, specified a modified, or sulfate-resistant, concrete for the Balmorhea facility.

“Penetron is currently involved in a number of similar projects with saltwater disposal tanks in the Pecos oilfield and across Texas,” said Christopher Chen, director of The Penetron Group. “The concrete of these tanks needs to be protected from the effects of the aggressive brine residue.”

Penetron worked with Big Bend Concrete of Alpine, Texas, to come up with the right concrete mix. About 1,100 cubic yards of concrete were treated with PENETRON ADMIX for the saltwater disposal tanks.

Concrete is a very hard and strong material but also consists of a porous network of microscopic voids and cracks that allow water (or any type of moisture) to enter the matrix. In a saltwater disposal tank, the constant presence of chloride ions from saltwater in the brine residue can penetrate through the pores in the concrete all the way to the reinforcing steel where it initiates the corrosion of the steel – and the corresponding expansion. Ultimately, the concrete can crack and fail, making expensive repairs and replacement necessary.

Adding a crystalline admixture to concrete helps to significantly reduce permeability of the matrix by permanently sealing microcracks, pores and capillaries. This provides an effective protection to the concrete against water penetration and the effects of deterioration, even under the constant hydrostatic pressure encountered in the saltwater disposal tanks at the Balmorhea facility.

“We completed a similar project for a saltwater disposal tank in Odessa, Texas, last year, with excellent results,” said Chen. “We are currently working on two other projects in the area—in Orla and in Stanton—where our crystalline technology is the ideal solution to counter the aggressive environments encountered in the disposal tanks.”

The Penetron Group is a leading manufacturer of specialty construction products for concrete waterproofing, concrete repairs and floor preparation systems. The Group operates through a global network, offering support to the design and construction community through its regional offices, representatives and distribution channels.