Using Filter Presses to Recycle Flowback and Produced Water
What is Hydraulic Fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing (informally referred to as “fracking”) is an oil and gas well development process that involves injecting water, chemicals and additives (known as proppants) under high pressure into a shale rock formation. To keep fissures and fractures open, proppants such as sand or ceramics are commonly used. This process is intended to create new fractures in the rock as well as increase the size, extent and connectivity of existing fissures to reach oil and gas deposits. (Source: USGS.gov).
The hydraulic fracturing process requires the management of a great deal of water for the extraction of oil and gas. First, a substantial amount of water is used for the initial injection process. According to the USGS, water use can range from 1.5 million to about 16 million gallons per hydraulically fractured well depending on the nature of the rock formation and other factors. Next, the issues of flowback and produced water must be considered.
Flowback Versus Produced Water
Flowback water is a combination of the water, chemicals and proppants pumped into the ground that return to the surface over time as a result of pressure. Most of the flowback occurs in the first seven to ten days, while the rest can occur over a three to four week period. The flowback can be anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the volume initially injected into the well. The remaining fluid is absorbed into the rock formation. (Source: idl.idaho.gov).
At some point in time, the water recovered from the well makes a transition from “flowback” to “produced” water. Produced water is composed of the minerals, petroleum residue, salt and other contaminants already present in the ground.
While flowback water can be considerable, it is the produced water that creates a much larger challenge for producers. On average in the U.S., between five and six barrels of water are produced for every barrel of oil that comes out of the ground. The Permian Basin in West Texas produces an even greater amount of water, at six to eight barrels of water per barrel of crude. This is equivalent to over 1,000 Olympic-size swimming pools full of water coming out of the Permian Basin alone each day! (Source: rbnenergy.com).
When collected from a well, the combined flowback and produced water contain a high amount of contaminants along with the original proppants. Producers must first clean and then either recycle or dispose of the water in a safe, environmentally responsible manner. Because of the sheer volume of water resulting from hydraulic fracturing operations, along with the need for a substantial amount of water on the front end of the process, many companies are now treating this water for reuse.
The Role of Filter Presses
Filter presses are often used as part of the water treatment process, separating the solids that are precipitated out of the water. A filter press can capture the majority of the particulate matter, and then the clean water can be routed back to the beginning of the process.
M.W. Watermark is a leading filter press manufacturer, with expertise in building the large format filter presses used in the mining and energy industries. M.W. Watermark also makes custom filter cloths with short lead times for virtually all makes and models of filter presses. Cloths can be sewn to the exact specifications of your filter press, providing for a perfect fit.
Contact an M.W. Watermark Sales and Service Team member to learn more.
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