Handling and treating produced and recovered water is an increasingly important task for the petrochemical industry. A November 2014 Reuters report estimated industry-related water production in the United States at around 60 to 70 million barrels per day. Over 70 percent of that gets reinjected into the reservoir to help maintain pressures; however, some of it is put to good use. The same report mentions that the largest source of iodide in the U.S., for example, comes from produced water in Oklahoma. Yet iodide represents a tiny fraction of the possible constituents. Produced water overall is chemically complex, requiring equally complicated methods of handling and treatment. Novel, cost-effective solutions are critical.
Innovations in water treatment are having a positive impact on the industry, however. In May 2013, WaterWorld highlighted MIT-affiliated startup Gradiant Corporation and its carrier gas extraction (CGE) water treatment technology. The company stated that CGE “uses relatively advanced thermodynamic principles to recovery energy effectively and lower the required energy consumption.” Overall, the process uses a carrier gas to decontaminate the water at lower temperatures and pressures. Today, the company still espouses its CGE process, as well as an ion-specific selective chemical extraction (SCE) process, as tech that continues to lower costs and improve operational efficiency.
The same article also addresses GE’s mobile evaporator water treatment solution for high-salinity wastewater. The mobile system’s core is composed of a mechanical vapor recompression (MVR) evaporation system that reduces space requirements, corrosion, energy consumption, and operating costs. GE’s Thermal Products general manager William Heins also touched upon the technology’s practicality in today’s regulatory atmosphere, noting “[i]ncreased regulatory restrictions in some regions have generated considerable interest in this technology as it addresses the key issues of minimization of wastewater disposal and fresh water make-up.”
Despite its own recent innovations, the company continues to search for improved water processing technologies. In early 2015, GE and Statoil teamed up with NineSigma, offering cash awards and research funding for top research teams that could provide viable solutions for improving produced water use and treatment (PDF) for onshore oil and gas production. Specifically, the companies wanted options “that can cost-effectively reduce the concentration” of dissolved salts in water and “minimize salt deposition in tubing so that less water can be injected downhole.”