MAKING IT: Forget the Future: Frack Water Recycling is Here

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | September 06, 2013

Flat screen televisions and water produced during the hydraulic fracturing process have a lot in common. Walter Dale, strategic business manager of water management services for global energy service provider Halliburton, can explain why. Just like the flat screen TVs we used five years ago, produced water and producers' understanding of the resource has changed, Dale says. With the commercial launch of Halliburton’s trademarked H20 Forward water recycling and reuse process, the difference in how produced water will be handled in 2013 versus 2009 could be more than just a change. As the process becomes more widely used and accepted (it has already been proven in more than 60 wells and 280 fractures), it could create a new approach to the way the oil and gas industry and the entire Williston Basin thinks about water, or as Halliburton believes, a paradigm shift of fluid technology. 

The H20 Forward process can recycle produced water in the same reservoirs that hold the hydrocarbons unlocked during the hydraulic fracturing process, and the flowback water that is pumped into the well and then returned during extraction. This allows for unlimited reuse of the produced water in new well completions instead of disposal in deep injection wells. “When you think about the industry and all the people that are involved, they’ve always said you need good quality water [for fracking] and now we are saying you don’t,” Dale says.

In August, Dale and others held a one-day event to showcase the product, explain the process and answer question from producers considering the approach. The process combines two main steps: electrocoagulation and bacteria control.

The electrocoagulation process removes colloidal matter present in a produced water stream by releasing positively charged ions into the water that attach to negatively charged ions. The process bonds the ions to any colloidal matter in the water stream. Through the use of gas bubbles, the bonded matter particles become buoyant and surface, , leaving behind clear water suitable for drilling, and completed wells. The process creates a clean brine suitable for complex and slick water fluids used to frack a well. The components of the water removed during the process include hydrocarbons, suspended solids and metals. The key to the entire recycling process is the understanding that the water for future use only needs to be suitable, Dale says.

In combination with the electrocoagulation step, the system uses an ultraviolet (UV) bacteria control process that helps to reduce bacteria present in the waste water. When water is pumped into a well, it returns with bacteria present in the earth’s surface. That bacteria, left untreated, can lead to the corrosion of iron or steel and can also thin out a fracture fluid limiting its effectiveness. The UV process flashes UV rays through the water, treating both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, a step that helps to reduce the amount of biocide, a bacteria control agent.

The H20 Forward process presents several benefits, including: effective water treatment, fluid formulation qualities, effective biocide use and a logistical component for handling, storing and moving the water. Halliburton will move 60,000 barrels of produced water and 20,000 barrels of flowback water to a central recycling location. Producers can then take 80,000 barrels of clean brine to use in any future well.

To move, handle and store the produced and flowback water, Halliburton has partnered with Nuverra Environmental Solutions. Nuverra will place recycling sites in locations central to several clients, or, according to Mark Johnsrud, CEO of Nuverra, the company can set-up sites in remote locations. Nuverra will utilize frack water storage tanks to store recycled water.

The system doesn’t only reduce the need for fresh water, it also can reduce the well completions and overall operations costs for producers. Dale estimates the water costs for wells in the Williston Basin total roughly $16 per barrel. Depending on the amount of water recycled, Halliburton clients could reduce the amount spent on water anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000.

“Overall efficiency is going to be extremely important,” Johnsrud says. Currently, he believes roughly seven or eight clients are signed up to use the recycling process. The North Dakota Industrial Commission has worked with Halliburton through the development stages of the process and at this point, there are no regulatory constraints that will impede the rapid deployment of the service.

The process will allow for the use of commingled water, and the site preparation for the first recycling facility is already underway east of Watford City, N.D. According to Dale, water managements costs related to hydraulic fracturing are roughly $51 billion annually. “Everybody,” Johnsrud said, at the demonstration event, “will be watching to see how it [the Halliburton-Nuverra process] happens.”