A look at oil and gas water recycling and deep disposal

Deep injection well
Deep injection well

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

High Sierra, which has its roots in Greeley, has developed industry-leading treatment processes, allowing oil companies to turn over their used water to a High Sierra facility, where it is treated and transported back to the oilfields.

This year the company expects to recycle about 2,000 barrels of water daily at its Weld County facilities, up from some 1,500 barrels last year…

High Sierra has operations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, which includes Northern Colorado, and also works in Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas. In Weld County, High Sierra owns two water-recycling facilities, one in Briggsdale and another in Platteville, which company representatives believe are the largest such facilities in Northern Colorado.

“The field seems to be moving toward recycling slowly but surely,” said Doug White, vice president of High Sierra Water.

Companies can use more than 3 million gallons of water per well during hydraulic fracturing, a well-completion technique that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to crack tight shale formations and release oil and natural gas. After the well is complete, water flows back to the surface where it is captured and transported offsite. Most of this contaminated water still is disposed of via deep-injection wells, but growing amounts are treated and reused.

High Sierra Water owns nearly half of the 25 deep-injection wells operating in the greater Wattenberg area. These are designated specifically for wastewater and regulated by state authorities. The greater Wattenberg area spans nearly 3,000 square miles north of Denver and through a substantial portion of Weld County.

High Sierra has developed water-treatment systems that remove elements such as barium, calcium, magnesium, silica, strontium and iron so companies can reuse the water for hydraulic fracturing.

The company has the ability to treat water to match the quality of fresh water, company representatives said. In Wyoming, for example, the company operates a water-treatment facility that has recycled more than 32 million barrels of water and discharged more than 5 million barrels of highly treated water into the New Fork River, a tributary of the Green and Colorado rivers…

Noble Energy said in October that it had recycled about 2 percent of its water so far this year, or 600,000 barrels.

But Noble is in the midst of a major expansion of its water-recycling program. Today, about 80 percent of Noble Energy’s water comes from ponds and wells and 18 percent from cities, while 2 percent is recycled. Noble Energy plans to raise the capacity of its program to recycle 5.8 million barrels of water next year, nearly 10 times more than its current level.

Despite the efforts of companies such as High Sierra Water and Noble Energy, water recycling remains uncommon in Northern Colorado despite heavy drilling activity.

It is more common in Western Colorado, where about half of water used in oil and gas production is recycled, said Ken Carlson, a civil engineering professor at Colorado State University.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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