Enhancing Produced Water Recycling with Automated Chemical Treatment
Read how Pioneer Natural Resources partnered with ChampionX and 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 Customer
Pioneer Natural Resources is a publicly-trader, top-tier, independent exploration and production company with a proven track record of adding value for its shareholders. The company operates purely in the Permian Basin, producing over 600 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day. Pioneer is committed to operating sustainably and safely, in many cases outpacing its peers in terms of sustainability and safety metrics.
Limited water availability for fracking
Like most unconventional oil producers in the U.S., Pioneer 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, Pioneer 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. Pioneer 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, Pioneer needed a way to treat, process, and reuse produced brine.
Since becoming an active unconventional driller in West Texas, Pioneer 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.
– Pioneer Water Engineer
Scale precipitation limited water flow and increased costs
In recent years, Pioneer 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.
Pioneer 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. Pioneer field workers had to clean pipelines frequently to maintain throughput, which was costly and timeconsuming 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, Pioneer turned to chemicals. However, implementing a reliable, consistent, and effective chemical management program across a vast footprint proved difficult.
To successfully treat Pioneer’s scale problem, ChampionX had to design a sophisticated and tailored inhibitor treatment solution. Scale inhibitor needed to be available in many locations so that Pioneer could apply it to clean brine all across the Permian Basin. The Pioneer team wanted to deliver brine via mainline infrastructure, creating more complexity for ChampionX.
In the fracking world, where project schedules can change quickly, Pioneer’s chemical injection system had to adjust on the fly and leverage automation when possible. ChampionX also had to ensure that Pioneer could control many injection points without overburdening field workers.
Automated chemical injection based on water flow
Pioneer and ChampionX turned to WellAware for its On Demand Chemical injection automation solution.
Using WellAware’s platform, ChampionX was able to implement chemical tank monitoring for Pioneer to track chemical supply and usage. ChampionX also took advantage of WellAware’s remote pump control capabilities for adjusting setpoint targets.
Additionally, On Demand Chemical enabled ChampionX to integrate water flow rates from nearby flow meters and automate Pioneer’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.
– ChampionX Area Manager
Together, these advanced chemical injection capabilities solved Pioneer’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 operator to focus on critical job performance without needing to deal with complex automation systems.
ChampionX 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. Pioneer was able to finally move clean brine through their water infrastructure with confidence.
With WellAware, ChampionX provided a comprehensive answer to Pioneer’s scale problem.
Zero empty chemical tanks and on-target treatment
Pioneer 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 Pioneer’s fracking schedule.
Pioneer’s chemical injection program achieved an injection variance of less than 2% from target in Q3 2020, far below industry baseline averages of 20-40%. Put simply, Pioneer is delivering the right amount of chemical at the right time with much greater efficiency and effectiveness than other industrial organizations. The company 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.
– Pioneer Water Engineer
Lower operating costs & ROI validation
Both ChampionX and Pioneer have reduced operating costs with WellAware On Demand Chemical. ChampionX area managers no longer need to be on location constantly to address changes in Pioneer’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 ChampionX personnel are safer overall.
Improved visibility and response time
Both ChampionX and Pioneer report that WellAware On Demand Chemical provides better visibility and response times for tracking costs and calibrating injection systems. ChampionX appreciates the solution’s real-time data streams and uses the information to evaluate the effectiveness of Pioneer’s entire chemical treatment program.
Pioneer’s production engineers use WellAware’s reports to make informed decisions related to treatment concentration and dosing. The Pioneer team also incorporates daily insights into its existing SCADA system.
Reduced environmental impact
Pioneer’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, Pioneer also has the tools and data it needs to prove the ROI of its decision to invest in its pipeline infrastructure.
Previously, Pioneer sent clean brine to salt water disposals (SWDs) for removal. Now, Pioneer 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 Pioneer and ChampionX.
In the competitive Permian Basin, the platform helped both companies stay ahead of the competition. On Demand Chemical was a crucial part ChampionX’s solution for optimizing Pioneer’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.
– Pioneer Water Engineer
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