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The Renewable Energy Blog

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by Bryan Bingham

Flowback water is generated from drilling and is traditionally hauled to a disposal site. Flowback water is what gets produced from the first 5% of water returned after a well is started. It’s simple to recycle and sometimes be done on-site for reuse.

Produced water is wasted water that accompanies oil extraction and is high in saline. The standards for produced water disposal are governed by State, National and international regulatory bodies and new technologies are constantly bringing new options for less environmental impact.

There is a lot of equipment used around drilling and produced water such as rigs, storage tanks, separating tanks, exposed pipes, and mixing ponds. Flowback water and drilling operations are temporarily an inconvenience and last only 45 days per well but when recycle at the well the inconvenience disappears. I talked to some guys about the produced water situation and they figure it will all become less of an issue as well recycle more.

A short-term economic boom and the long-term affects are of most concern to homeowners and city and state leaders. They aren’t opposed to all natural gas drilling but those operations in urban areas seem to impact those around. Few other worries become a problem with flowback water as more technology comes about to lessen the impact.

Offshore platforms can have a major impact on the environment if the waste water is not handled properly or recycled. But environmental regulations are becoming more commonplace including Asia and we’re seeing the concern for produced water contaminants become less of an issue with the option of cleansing the waste water.

Treatment is a non-pollutant with the use of sulfonated gelling agent polymers. The flowback water treating fluids of the present may exhibit decreased sensitivity to low pH. A treating fluid may contain a higher concentration of solubles compared to the treated water.

Companies that participate in drilling and oil production can use a recycle center right at the site and avoid the costs and heavy waste on the environment. There is a production property is south of Abilene, Texas, geographically known as the Eastern Shelf of the Permian Basin. In some places, the oil companies have started recycling the flowback water to save money on water costs and disposal fees. In Arkansas, oil companies are putting in little dams to create ponds. We’re seeing the energy companies trying to move toward more eco-friendly operations and lessen the damage that trucks bring to streets and pollutants to the air.

No doubt, the disposal of the flowback water is of great concern. Oil production operations are recovering frac water from both wells and oil production capacity and it’s expected to increase as the flowback water is removed. Treated flowback water can be used for agricultural purposes and/or other uses and is often re-injected below the earth’s surface.

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