Enhancing produced water recycling and improving vendor-customer relationship with automated chemical treatment
Read how a large independent Oil & Gas producer and global Oilfield Services Company partnered with WellAware to automate scale inhibitor treatment on permanent water infrastructure so that the company could increase it’s produced water recycling capacity and reduce chemical spending.
About the Customers
The large independent producer (“Operator”) is a publicly-traded, top-tier, independent exploration and production company. The company operates purely in the Permian Basin, producing over 600 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day.
The global oilfield services provider (“Service Company”) is a publicly-traded leader in oilfield production chemicals and technology applications.
Limited water availability for fracking
Like most unconventional oil producers in the U.S., the Operator had a water problem. The company needs large volumes of water for its hydraulic fracking operations, which isn’t unusual. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), some fractured wells require up to 16 million gallons of water. Furthermore, like every drilling operator, the Operator needs its water to be of a certain quality to ensure a successful drilling program.
Unfortunately, freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce and can be both inefficient and costly to obtain. The Operator wanted to reduce its net consumption of water by using recycled produced water (brine). This water source is both cheaper and better for the environment, as it enables operators to pull less fresh-water from surface and underground reservoirs. To reduce its net water consumption, however, the Operator needed a way to treat, process, and reuse produced brine.
Since becoming an active unconventional driller in West Texas, the Operator has developed a wide network of frac ponds in the prolific Permian Basin. Like those of many other fracking operators, the ponds store water that will eventually be used for fracking projects.
In the past, we only moved our freshwater municipal water or Santa Rosa water through the infrastructure, just because of the damage that the clean brine could do.
– Operator Water Engineer
Scale precipitation limited water flow and increased costs
In recent years, the Operator has enhanced its water program through a network of water gathering and distribution lines that deliver water wherever it’s needed. This permanent infrastructure has allowed the company to be much more efficient than many of its competitors in the most productive oil basin in the world.
The company’s 36-inch HDPE pipes used to transport frack water were prone to scale precipitation when brine was introduced. The recycled frac water introduced sources of scale from the reservoir as it was injected into the formation and then reproduced.
The Operator wanted to treat its produced water to inhibit scales from depositing in HDPE pipes so that they could effectively transport brine in their infrastructure. Scales reduce water flow, which ultimately limits water capacity. The Operator field workers had to clean pipelines frequently to maintain throughput, which was costly and time-consuming from a labor standpoint.
In some instances, the company couldn’t get enough water to production sites, forcing operators to buy additional water or delay drilling schedules. Given the massive volumes needed for fracking, this approach wasn’t financially sustainable.
Large operations area makes management difficult
Like most producers fighting scale, the Operator turned to chemicals. However, implementing a reliable, consistent, and effective chemical management program across a vast footprint proved difficult.
To successfully treat the Operator’s scale problem, the Service Company had to design a sophisticated and tailored inhibitor treatment solution. Scale inhibitor needed to be available in many locations so that the Operator could apply it to clean brine all across the Permian Basin. The Operator team wanted to deliver brine via mainline infrastructure, creating more complexity for the Service Provider.
In the fracking world, where project schedules can change quickly, the Operator’s chemical injection system had to adjust on the fly and leverage automation when possible. The Service Provider also had to ensure that the Operator could control many injection points without overburdening field workers.
Automated chemical injection based on water flow
The Operator and Service Company turned to WellAware for its On Demand Chemical injection automation solution.
Using WellAware’s platform, the Service Company was able to implement chemical tank monitoring for the Operator to track chemical supply and usage. The Service Company also took advantage of WellAware’s remote pump control capabilities for adjusting setpoint targets.
Additionally, On Demand Chemical enabled the Service Company to integrate water flow rates from nearby flow meters and automate the Operator’s chemical injection pumps to deliver constant, proportional dosing. Now, injection rate setpoints update six times per minute to match water flow rates, delivering precise, repeatable concentrations of chemical.
We needed something to work so that we didn’t have to put a ton of manpower on it, because it’s challenging to move equipment and maintain consistent flow.
– Service Company Area Manager
Together, these advanced chemical injection capabilities solved the Operator’s scale problem and set the organization up for long-term success. WellAware’s service model – providing and maintaining all hardware, connectivity, and software components – allowed each party to focus on critical job performance without needing to deal with complex automation systems.
The Service Company was able to focus on providing unique and novel chemistries, relying on automation to do the heavy lifting of delivering that chemical at the right dosage. The Operator was able to finally move clean brine through their water infrastructure with confidence.
With WellAware, the Service Company provided a comprehensive answer to the Operator’s scale problem.
Zero empty chemical tanks and on-target treatment
The Operator has had zero empty chemical tanks in nearly two years as a result of WellAware’s tank level monitoring feature. And no empty tanks means no injection loss. This is especially impressive given the dynamic nature of the Operator’s fracking schedule.
The Operator’s chemical injection program achieved an injection variance of less than 2% from target, far below industry baseline averages of 20-40%. Put simply, the Service Company is delivering the right amount of chemical at the right time with much greater efficiency and effectiveness than other organizations. The Operator no longer overspends on specialty chemicals or has flow problems through its pipeline infrastructure.
The weekly WellAware reports have been helpful, especially for me as I do cost tracking, and I make sure we are pumping what we need. It is helpful for me to see exactly what we are injecting, how that relates to our monthly costs.
– Operator Water Engineer
Lower operating costs & ROI validation
Both Service Company and Operator have reduced operating costs with WellAware On Demand Chemical. The Service Company account managers no longer need to be on location constantly to address changes in the Operator’s dynamic chemical system. Field technicians also don’t have to monitor inventory or update injection rate setpoints manually.
Moreover, they can adjust PPM targets remotely and don’t have to spend as much time in the car driving between sites. Total Recordable Incident Rates (TRIR) and Total Vehicle Accident Rates (TVAR) are down, as the Service Company personnel are safer overall.
Improved visibility and response time
Both Service Company and Operator report that WellAware On Demand Chemical provides better visibility and response times for tracking costs and calibrating injection systems. The Service Company appreciates the solution’s real-time data streams and uses the information to evaluate the effectiveness of the Operator’s entire chemical treatment program.
The Operator’s production engineers use WellAware’s reports to make informed decisions related to treatment concentration and dosing. The Operator team also incorporates daily insights into its existing SCADA system.
Reduced environmental impact
The Operator’s water costs related to fracking are much lower, as pipeline capacity has improved by 30% and water disposal costs are down. On top of that, the Operator also has the tools and data it needs to prove the ROI of its decision to invest in its pipeline infrastructure.
Previously, the Operator sent clean brine to salt water disposals (SWDs) for removal. Now, the Operator can recycle this water for reuse, thus minimizing its environmental footprint. The company has also lessened its exposure to leaks related to clean brine transport.
Stronger working relationship between vendor and customer
Finally, WellAware On Demand Chemical was instrumental in strengthening the relationship between the Operator and Service Company.
In the competitive Permian Basin, the platform helped both companies stay ahead of the competition. On Demand Chemical was a crucial part the Service Company’s solution for optimizing the Operator’s chemical management operations.
WATER CAPACITY INCREASE
BETTER TREATMENT ACCURACY
LOWER CHEMICAL COSTS
There are a lot of companies out there that have come to us with a number of solutions to these problems, whether it be automation, pumps, or monitoring, and overall we have been very happy with what ChampionX and WellAware have provided. Overall, it has been very, very good.
– Operator Water Engineer
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