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Centralized Wastewater Management Grows With Shale Oil Boom

Stricter regulations, the explosive growth of new hydraulic fracturing shale oil and gas wells and limited available water resources are driving the popularity of centralized wastewater management in North America, according to Pollution Engineering magazine.

Well over a dozen centralized wastewater treatment facilities servicing shale oil and gas drilling are now active or in development, the publication says.

Conventional solutions for handling fresh water resources and wastewater at oil and gas wells are short term, even through wellheads that produce shale oil and gas can exceed 20 years. For example, common solutions are to impound wastewater for evaporation in surface ponds or truck in water over long distances to well sites.

Centralization takes a comprehensive approach to managing fresh water supplies and treating wastewater. Pipeline are connected to all wellheads and directs wastewater to the centralized water management facilities.

These facilities typically manage wells within a 40- to 50-mile radius. The plant is able to identify which well the wastewater came from and is then processed to meet the targeted usage requirements. Once it’s processed the wastewater is piped directly to the targeted well.

An increasing number of oil and gas operations are reusing water, particularly in drought-stricken South Texas where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking used more than 14 billion gallons of water last year.

The number is far greater than estimates of what the Eagle Ford Shale oil field might use in the next decade. A study from the University of Texas at Austin, funded by the oil and gas industry, had predicted that fracking in the Eagle Ford would use a maximum of around 35,000 acre-feet of water annually.

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