Year: 2019

Oilfield Technology

The Role of Produced Water Treatment in Shale Plays

Lisa Henthorne and Buddy Boysen review the role of produced water treatment in shale plays in this Oilfield Technology Magazine article.

Shifting Focus

One of the biggest shifts in the U.S. oil and gas industry over the last decade is the combined use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to produce hydrocarbons from shale rock. As this segment of the unconventional industry has progressed, the cost of production from shale operations has steadily decreased each year. Associated water costs have inversely increased over this same time period. The increase in costs is partially due to use of larger and larger volumes of water during well development as lateral lengths, staging and proppant load has increased. Not only does this additional water cost more to source (from primarily aquifers or surface sources), but flowback volumes requiring disposal have also increased.

Recycling and reuse of flowback and produced water seems an obvious mitigation measure to address rising water costs. This approach can reduce water sourcing costs for subsequent well fracturing operations and wastewater disposal costs. Until recently, water recycling has only been adopted in areas where disposal options are limited or the high cost of transportation to disposal offsets the costs of treatment. A lack of common standards for treatment has also hindered the adoption of water recycling, often requiring customized treatment to address each Operator’s unique specification. The tremendous variability in the physical and chemical characteristics of flowback and produced water quality has also impacted treatment process standardization.

A change in perspective is now underway regarding the value of water in the oilfield, where views are changing from a minimal treatment/disposal mentality to one of a scarce resource that is the lifeblood of shale oil and gas production. The change in perspective is visible 1) from the rise of midstream water companies; 2) in the form of new and proposed legislation and regulation; 3) the advent of progressive water sourcing strategies such as purchase of municipal wastewater, where available; and 4) as the uptick in reported barrels of recycled water.

Several criteria are critical to widespread adoption of water recycling:

  • Infrastructure to cost-effectively transport untreated and treated water from well sites to treatment facilities and subsequent drill sites;
  • Common treatment standards that can enable standardization;
  • Simple and automated treatment operations;
  • Treatment processes that are dependable and cost-effective.

This article discusses the changing dynamics of water usage in the shale industry and the challenges associated with treatment, specifically focusing on the industry treatment objectives for water recycling and the chemistry and required technology to meet those objectives.

Produced Water/Flowback Volumes are Increasing

To gain an appreciation for water volumes in current shale operations, long-lateral wells in the Permian Basin produce over 250,000 metric tons (1.5 million barrels) of formation water in addition to approximately 75,000 metric tons (470,000 barrels) of source water flowback, assuming a water-to-oil ratio of 3:1 and oil production of 500,000 barrels. Approximately 450 wells are currently drilled per month in the Permian. The large number of new wells has observers anticipating a tsunami of water impacting the basin in coming years. Figure 1, developed by B3, portrays expected water production and usage through 2028 in the Permian Basin. According to IHS Markit, the Permian accounts for approximately 35% of current U.S. hydrofracturing operations, and while basins vary in their water-to-oil ratio, a reasonable assumption across the U.S. is generation of 31 billion barrels of water associated with annual rate of drilling at the current levels (450 wells drilled per month in the Permian representing 35% of the U.S. water production).

From Figure 1 below, it is clear that water recycling for fracturing operations alone cannot solve the overall excess water dilemma, that is, on average four times more water is produced from a well than required for a subsequent well fracturing operation.

Figure 1 Production Use Comparison. 300dpi

Figure 1 – Permian Water Production and Use Comparison. B3 publication, February 2019.

Treatment Options

Produced water treatment should reflect the intended use of the treated water. In other words, produced water should be treated to the minimum water quality level that is needed for the application (fit-for-purpose) or to safely meet the regulatory requirement. This approach optimizes economics of water management for the Operator. While produced water treatment is challenged by wide ranges of raw water quality, flowback from shale applications is further challenged with an inordinate variation in quality that changes as a function of the schedule in production operation. For example, early flowback usually contains high levels of friction reducing agents, which are often polyacrylamides, and suspended solids.

The general contaminants in produced water include:

  • Dispersed oil/hydrocarbons (oil and grease)
  • Dissolved hydrocarbons
  • Suspended solids
  • Dissolved solids/salts/metals
  • Other dissolved gases such as hydrogen sulfide, H2S
  • Bacterial contaminants

For recycling operations, removal of oil and grease, metals, total suspended solids (TSS), H2S and bacteria are the primary treatment objectives. Chemicals are generally used to expedite the removal of these contaminants, followed by a sedimentation or solids separation step as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Simple Schematic Of Pw Treatment For Shale Ops 300dpi

Figure 2. Simple schematic of produced water treatment for recycling in shale operations.

Operators have varying specifications for recycle water quality in shale operations. Some Operators only require a bacterial kill, while others may expect removal of the bulk of the metals, TSS and all of the H2S. These variations in desired treated water quality largely impact the Chemical Treatment step of the process, which is summarized in Figure 3.

Figure 3 Schematic Of General Chem Treatment Process For Recycling In Shale Ops 300dpi

Figure 3. Schematic of general Chemical Treatment process for recycling in shale operations.

It’s important to understand the role of each of these family of chemicals (oxidants, coagulants and flocculants) to determine whether they’re required to achieve plant-specific treated water quality goals:

  • Oxidant – added to oxidize and precipitate metals and hydrogen sulfide. Most oxidants also provide biocidal protection.
  • Coagulant – added to destabilize colloidal material to build larger particles (floc) that can be more easily separated from the water.
  • Flocculant – added to agglomerate coagulated solids and further improve particle characteristics for separation.

Oxidants are the most widely used of these chemicals and a range of options of oxidants are available. Table 1 describes the most common oxidants used in water recycling treatment in shale operations with a corresponding comparative analysis.

Table 1. Comparison of Chemical Oxidant Cost and Performance

Table 1 Comparison Of Chemical Oxidant Cost And Performance 300dpi

Oxidants are typically used to convert dissolved metals into particulate form for separation. Oxidants can also provide a disinfectant residual to the treated water, thereby extending their biocidal characteristics for bacterial kill. When performing more advanced forms of water reuse, the oxidants can be used to convert organic carbon compounds into more biologically assimilable compounds.

Some oxidants such as hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide and ozone can be generated onsite to reduce chemical transportation costs. However, the savings can be negated by other factors including higher price component chemicals like sodium chlorite, complex generation equipment for ozone or more limited storage life of sodium hypochlorite.

Generic or proprietary coagulants and flocculants are used in water recycling if lower total suspended solids/turbidity is desired. Coagulants are often used to destabilize colloidal materials including suspended organics and oily metal solids, which can be problematic for injection. Prehydrolyzed aluminum coagulants like polyaluminum chloride and aluminum chlorohydrate are typically used.

The level of TSS in produced water and flowback in shale operations varies greatly from a lower range of 30 mg/L up to over 1,000 mg/L. Iron levels also vary significantly: Woodford and the DJ Basin commonly are below 30 mg/L, whereas Wolfcamp and the Haynesville are upwards of 100 and 150 mg/L, respectively. Targeting lower TSS levels in recycled water used for fracturing operations improves proppant pack permeability. This is not intuitive since proppant is inherently composed of solids, i.e. sand. The difference in size between the very fine and often colloidal particulate materials in untreated produced water and flowback and the proppant materials is a problem. Often poorly treated produced water contains significant populations of particle size below 3 micron, which can accumulate in the interstitial space between the larger proppant particles and reduce the proppant pack permeability as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4 Proppant Comparison 300dpi

Figure 4. Proppant Pack Permeability – Produced Water Recycling/Reuse (SPE 165085)

Also note that if the produced water is not intended for recycling but will be pumped downhole in disposal wells, there are limitations on the injection pressure, which may also govern treatment. For instance, the Delaware Basin injection pressure is limited to 0.2 psi/ft whereas the Midland Basin is limited to 0.5 psi/ft. Both these limitations dictate reduction of TSS prior to injection. If poorly treated or untreated, the fine materials will plug the receiving aquifer in a similar manner. In these applications, the colloidal material can be especially problematic if the colloidal material is composed of insoluble materials like silica or materials that tend to gel during well acidification.

Following chemical treatment, an effective separation step is critical to achieving the desired recycling water quality. This step is one that is often short-changed for the sake of economics, even though cost-effective separation processes are readily available. Use of an aboveground storage tank (AST) or weir-equipped gravity tank instead of a dissolved air flotation (DAF) unit can reduce capital and operating costs but has a significant impact on removal of small particles. TSS levels are generally higher for AST or weir tanks by a difference of as much as 50% in comparison to DAF units. Generally, the required water quality will dictate what level of treatment is applied, but the impact of not treating may not be seen immediately and is often not fully considered during preliminary process development.

Economics is Key

When an Operator evaluates their water management options, the general analysis considers cost of sourcing, transportation and disposal versus recycling, including transportation, treatment, and storage costs. We’ve noted that the level of treatment varies considerably based on the physical and chemical characteristics of the feedwater quality, as well as the recycling water quality specification. To complicate matters further, sourcing, transportation, disposal, and storage costs vary significantly by region and even within a basin, depending on distance to the disposal wells. Table 2 summarizes the range of costs broken down by each area of costs on a dollar per barrel basis.

Table 2. Sourcing, Recycling and Disposal Cost Breakdown

Table 2 Sourcing, Recycling And Disposal Cost Breakdown 300dpi


Water management in the shale plays has reinforced the value of water to our industry, and we can demonstrate our stewardship of this resource through cost-effective water recycling, as well as treatment for discharge, where practical.

Although water management in the shale plays presents Operators with a myriad of decisions, and a supply of economical options with known costs for long-term success are greatly needed, the availability of cost-competitive water recycling services is increasing. Each day in active basins such as the Permian, infrastructure development and midstream players equipped with facilities to address this need are helping to close the gap on the long-term water treatment needs of the Energy Industry.

Though water recycling cannot fully eliminate produced water disposal, recycling provides a partial solution that is attainable now at a cost structure that is competitive to disposal in most cases. Cost-effective advanced treatment technologies, for discharge to the environment, that address projected future excess produced water volumes are currently available for produced waters with salinities under 55,000 mg/L. Higher salinity waters are more limited in discharge quality treatment options that are economical, but innovations are occurring in evaporative, membrane distillation and other techniques that may soon make these technologies cost-effective.

Shale Water Technology Spotlight-H2O Spectrum® Platform & H2O Floc™

Water Standard and Monarch Separators are pleased to be highlighted in E&P Magazine’s Shale Water Technology Showcase.

In this special section of the July issue, E&P highlights some of the latest products and technologies for shale and looks at how they will benefit companies in their ongoing search for improved production and more effective operating techniques.

Water Standard – H2O Spectrum®  Platform

Long-Term Water Treatment Solutions Designed to Enable Reuse or Surface Discharge

Water Standard is helping energy companies lower operating costs by safely and economically treating their produced and flowback water.  Water Standard has developed their compact and modular H2O Spectrum® platform after successfully executing demonstration programs in the Permian, DJ and Powder River basins for treatment of produced and flowback water where cost and operability were key drivers. The H2O Spectrum® platform offers the ability to treat water for reuse and recycle, or advanced treatment for safe surface discharge back into the water cycle, demonstrating the stewardship of this water as our most valuable resource.  The general constituents targeted for removal in reuse applications include oil and grease, suspended solids, bacteria and iron, while treatment for surface discharge extends to the removal of salt, ammonia, and dissolved organics.

Monarch Separators’ H2O Floc™

Green Flocculant Demonstrates Stewardship of Water as a Resource Through Cost-Effective Water Recycling

Monarch Separators’ green flocculant, H2O Floc™ , is used to reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas operations through cost-effective produced and flowback water recycling, while improving oil recovery. This green alginate flocculant’s primary treatment objectives are removal of oil and grease and total suspended solids, and when used in conjunction with an oxidant, metals, H2S and bacteria.  Through multiple pilot scale produced and flowback water treatment tests in the Permian, DJ and Powder River Basins, H2O Floc™ chemistry was able to reduce turbidities from greater than 650 NTU to 1 NTU and oil removal to less than 2 mg/L, and iron and manganese to less than 1 mg/L, while being dosed at a much lower rate than current market flocculants.

Offshore Rig Orange Istock 000020867617 Sm

Lisa Henthorne Shares Insight with Offshore Engineer Magazine

For today’s blog, we thought it would be best to share a recent article in which Lisa Henthorne, Chief Technology Officer, shared her insight. The article was written by contributing editor of Offshore Engineer Magazine, Jennifer Pallanich and we appreciate her reaching out to Lisa for her thoughts on this ever-changing topic.

A Push for Better Offshore Water Treatment

Changing environmental regulations around the world will have an impact on how the offshore industry handles produced water.

Typically, offshore operators treat their produced water so it can be discharged back into the ocean, although there has been growing interest in reinjecting it into the formation, says Lisa Henthorne, the newly elected president of the Produced Water Society, and senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Water Standard and its produced water subsidiary, Monarch Separators.

Discharge limits are trending more stringent, and some operators are shifting toward green chemicals, which are less problematic in the environment, as a way to meet those lower parts per million (ppm) ceilings.

“They biodegrade faster,” Henthorne says, adding Water Standard’s own green flocculant is called H2O Floc™. “Ours is sourced from seawater algae, so it is going back to the environment it came from. It is extremely effective, basically corralling dispersed oil and suspended solids so the treated water can be discharged or reinjected for waterflooding.”

At the same time, improved filtration systems need to efficiently meet those more stringent discharge limits while also taking up the minimum footprint possible on an offshore rig, she says. Existing systems may need to be replaced or supplemented as regulations around the world come into force.

One example is Brazil, where new regulations from the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) and Brazil’s National Environment Council (CONAMA) change the permitted method of analyzing treated water for discharge while still maintaining the level of permitted ppm.

Flocculant For Produced Water

In essence, Henthorne says, an offshore operator could previously analyze treated water via a method that didn’t pick up polar hydrocarbons – benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene – and in the first quarter of 2020, they will be required to use an analysis method that does. So, if the previous analysis method didn’t pick up 5 ppm of polar hydrocarbons and the new methods do, it might push the treated water over the maximum allowance, she says.

The upshot is they may “need a better treatment system to discharge the same water than they did before,” Henthorne says. Some upgrades, additional treatment steps and changes to equipment are likely, she adds, noting different chemicals or increased doses may also be part of the answer.

Another answer might be an Excursion System, which treats water only if it exceeds the range acceptable for discharge, she says. She calls the Excursion System a “backup plan” to use for treating off-spec water after the primary treatment. Monarch Separators has been installing those units offshore around the globe for over a decade.

Some operators are planning to handle more produced water by reinjecting it for waterflooding. The challenge in this, Henthorne says, is a function of the reservoir geology, chemistry and permeability.

Reinjection may require the operator to remove even more suspended solids than if they were discharging the water overboard.

“Those are not necessarily easily removed, so they may need to add a flotation device, or flocculant to combine those fine constituents into a larger solid for efficient removal,” she says.

Filtration will also help, she adds, although conventional media filtration is a weight-intensive technology so not desirable in offshore applications. Membrane technology, such as Water Standard’s H2Ocean Spectrum® product line, is a cost-effective alternative that can filter finer solids in a compact, light-weight configuration, she adds.

“Anytime you’re talking about offshore and new equipment, the old story of weight and footprint are still true, it’s a fundamental characteristic. It’s not going to change,” Henthorne says. “That’s where the newer technologies can really make a difference.”

Produced Water Filtration System

Lisa Henthorne Produced Water Web 4

Lisa Henthorne Elected President of Produced Water Society

Water Standard and its produced water subsidiary are pleased to announce Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Lisa Henthorne, has been elected President of the Produced Water Society (PWS).

PWS is a collection of oil and gas professionals with the common mission to study and improve the management of produced water from offshore and onshore wells. The organization provides opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing through membership, conferences, workshops and partner events.

Here at Water Standard, we are extremely proud of Lisa’s incredible achievement. It is another shining example of the continued development of our biggest asset, our team. Not only does our company promote the advancement of water treatment technologies but we feel it is equally important to build a team strong enough to use these advancements to make a difference. We will not slow down until we help the global energy industry uncover the true value of water and find the best solution to treat it for reuse or ultimately, safe discharge back into the water cycle.

Please read the official press release below:

Lisa Henthorne, Chief Technology Officer at Water Standard and Monarch Separators, Elected as President of the Produced Water Society

For Immediate Release

Houston, TX | June 26, 2019

Water Standard and its produced water subsidiary, Monarch Separators, are pleased to announce the election of Ms. Lisa Henthorne, Sr. Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, to the prestigious position of President of the Produced Water Society (PWS).

PWS was founded almost 30 years ago and consists of a dedicated society of oil and gas professionals who share produced water management knowledge and solutions and collaborate to solve produced water challenges in both conventional and unconventional plays. PWS and Water Standard / Monarch Separators share the same vision of improving the management and disposal of produced water to create a more sustainable future for our earth’s water supply.

Ms. Henthorne’s extensive work developing innovative produced water reuse and safe discharge solutions, along with her diverse personal, professional, and educational experience, adds an important global understanding and management approach to facilitate the growth of PWS and to raise awareness of the value of water to the oil and gas industry. Her history in water treatment and technology is multifaceted. Prior to being elected President of PWS, Ms. Henthorne served on their board for 4 years, contributing to the growth in technical programs and member services.  In addition, she currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of H2O Innovation and acted as President of the International Desalination Association from 2007-2009 and sat on their Board of Directors for 16 years. She holds four U.S. patents and multiple foreign patents in water treatment technology.

Ms. Henthorne’s role at Water Standard / Monarch Separators will be enriched by her involvement in PWS as the companies’ belief in knowledge sharing and collaboration has already brought about some exciting advancements in produced / flowback water treatment solutions. Ms. Henthorne states, “I’m very excited to be part of the PWS team this year as we endeavor to further the exchange of ideas and technical knowledge regarding produced water management, to facilitate conversations on the increasing value of water to our industry, and to support the produced water community in these very exciting times.”

About Water Standard and Monarch Separators

Water Standard and its produced water subsidiary Monarch Separators have an extremely passionate and diverse team dedicated to safely and economically changing the energy industry’s use of water. The company specializes in shale, produced and flowback water treatment, enhanced / improved oil recovery, and advanced water treatment with membranes. With additional service and manufacturing capabilities, the company is the global leader in providing the best, most cost-effective water treatment solution for the energy industry to utilize water and waste water in ways never thought possible.

About the Produced Water Society

The Produced Water Society is a collection of oil and gas professionals with the common mission to improve the management and disposition of produced water. Through the discussion of best practices and the presentation of advanced solutions to dynamic obstacles, PWS fosters an environment where water professionals learn from one another in an open setting and where the entire industry thrives as a result.

Uzo Snapshot 1 (6 14 2019 3 33 Pm)

Importance of Internships – From the Company and Intern’s Perspective

By Julie Bennett, Marketing Communication Specialist

In today’s competitive climate, I thought it would be helpful to share how participating in an internship program can benefit a company as well as the intern. Let me explain.

Tasked with the important role of treating water for the energy industry, our company strongly believes in always looking ahead, whether that means in water treatment technology advancements, market trends, or even future talent. The energy industry is in constant flux, with operators on the hunt for faster, safer, more cost effective solutions to the water challenges they face in their day to day operations, all while being good stewards of the environment. This search for innovative solutions requires a creative, forward thinking team and we have found building that strong team is the first and most important step.

One of the tools we use to build a team that is passionate, driven and forward thinking is to participate in local internship programs.  We believe that getting a fresh perspective from the younger generation and learning how they think, how they view the industry and what they are learning in school, provides an opportunity for us to think outside the box. The interns are excited to gain exposure to their chosen field and we are thrilled to share it with them as we evaluate up-and-coming talent, expose young professionals to our brand, and create a work environment that benefits us both. It’s a perfect way to avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with making a hiring commitment without having a full picture of how that individual will fit in the company.

From the intern’s perspective, I felt it would be best to hear from an actual intern. See below for my brief interview with Uzochukwu Anwaegbu, also known as Uzo, a Senior at the University of Houston. Uzo is currently enjoying a great opportunity as a Chemical Engineer intern here at Water Standard (WS) and our produced water subsidiary, Monarch Separators (MS). Read on to see what Uzo has to say about his experience thus far.

Julie: Uzo, how did you end up in this internship at Water Standard / Monarch Separators?

Uzo: I met Eric Edmonds, Sr. Buyer at WS/MS, on the soccer field. After I had beat him in a one-on-one (yep, that’s what I said), we started talking about life, my goals and the direction I saw for my future. The conversation ended up on the topic of a potential internship at the company. Eric is definitely a good guy so I thought I should give it a shot and we started the process.

Julie: So, what are you studying and what is your objective with this internship?

Uzo: I’m studying Chemical Engineering at U of H – go Cougars! My hope is to apply the techniques I’m learning in school to real life applications to better understand the process and give me some experience working on real projects.

Julie: How has the experience been so far?

Uzo: The company has been so welcoming and has taken me in like family. I am learning so much about water treatment for the oil and gas industry. I did not realize how complex water can be and the amount of science there is behind treating it to safe standards for the environment. I have a passion for the environment, so the work has been very relevant and has opened my eyes to the efforts companies like Water Standard and Monarch Separators are putting forth to find safe, economical, yet effective solutions to the water treatment needs of operators. It’s been a beneficial and rewarding experience so far and I look forward to learning more.

Julie: Is it safe to say you would recommend internships, such as yours, for college students?

Uzo: Absolutely. Not only am I developing my engineering skills, I’m also learning about the day to day operations of a company that designs, engineers and fabricates their products. I’m seeing the whole process. I’m meeting established professionals, broadening my network, and taking in every minute of it.


Membrane Deaeration Presentation

Buddy Boysen Wows the Crowd at AMTA/SCMA Workshop

In a powerful presentation at the AMTA/SCMA Joint Technology Transfer Workshop in Oklahoma City, Buddy Boysen, Engineering and Technology Director, unveiled how gas permeable membranes can cost-effectively remove oxygen from water, consequently replacing conventional deaeration strippers in industrial applications. He discussed the strong technical and commercial justification for membrane deaeration in broader applications such as offshore waterflooding for oil and gas operations by sharing findings from a long-term seawater membrane deaeration pilot test performed by Water Standard and the subsequent installations in oil and gas facilities. If you’d like to see Buddy’s presentation, please reach out to

Produced Water Seminar

Water Standard & Monarch Separators Plan a Strong Presence at Produced Water Society Seminar

Water Standard and its produced water subsidiary, Monarch Separators plan to bring their extensive experience and recent test findings to the Produced Water Society Seminar in Sugarland, TX on February 5-7, 2019. The companies are at the forefront of supplying cost-effective separation technologies to combat the flood of produced and flowback water that operators are dealing with. Their vision is to bring the produced water treatment industry together and educate operators on the powerful solutions available to reuse their water in operations and even treat it for safe surface discharge. Not only does this approach benefit the operator, it’s a huge step in environmental consciousness. Lisa Henthorne and Robert “Buddy” Boysen will each facilitate a break out session of the PWS Workshop Training held on Tuesday, Feb 5. This comprehensive overview of water management in the U.S. upstream onshore sector will provide real-world training that analyzes and explains field equipment in terms of water location, volumes, chemistry, and engineering principals. Buddy will focus on Jar Testing while Lisa furthers the discussion to include costing. It’s a must-attend workshop for anyone hoping to improve their upstream marketability. As the conference continues, Buddy will expand his Jar Testing insight is Session 2 – Reuse & Disposal. His presentation will be Wednesday at 1:00 pm and he will delve deeper into recent findings from Water Standard and Monarch Separators’ extensive testing in the Permian, DJ and Powder River basins. Buddy will focus on the chemical pretreatment scheme and variability in chemical pretreatment performance that was observed among the different test locations. His knowledge and experiences in produced water testing will be invaluable! Last but not least, on Thursday, at 1:00 pm, Valentina Llano from Monarch Separators, will chair Session 6 – Thermal Issues in Produced Water. The session will explore produced water thermal distillation and reducing produced water costs. We hope to see you at the conference!

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