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irrigating grapes

Pilot Project Tests Recycled Oilfield Water for Agricultural Use

irrigating grapesA pilot project to test treated oilfield wastewater for potential use in agricultural irrigation is underway in California.

Sweetwater Tech Resources’ Wasco, California-based project uses IntelliFlux artificial intelligence-based software developed by Water Planet.

Water Planet’s IMS-5000 Integrated Produced Water Treatment Solution technology used in the pilot is an integrated mechanical and membrane filtration system that incorporates ceramic membranes to filter the water. The company developed it to perform in oil and gas produced water treatment — a historically challenging water treatment application.

As part of the project, Water Planet is also running a standard reverse osmosis unit to desalt the brackish water that is left after treatment by the ceramic ultrafiltration membranes.

“We are currently running a series of demonstrations using a range of waters provided by a consortium of California oil producers to evaluate treating produced water for potential use in agricultural irrigation,” explains Eric Hoek, Water Planet CEO. “Our goals are to assess the water quality that can be achieved and the cost of doing so.”

Preliminary results are expected to be available in May, and will be passed along to regulators, who are currently evaluating the safety of using produced water to irrigate food crops.

As farmers in drought-stricken California look for alternative water sources for their crops, a $54 billion industry, recycled oilfield wastewater has become an attractive source. Currently about 50,000 acre feet of recycled oilfield wastewater is used to irrigate about 90,000 acres of crops in California’s Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

Chevron and the California offshoot of Occidental Petroleum, called California Resources Corporation, are the primary oil companies supplying oilfield wastewater to farmers.

But questions remain about its safety.

Water Planet says IntelliFlux is fully automated, self-adaptive filtration process control software developed to optimize the performance of filtration systems in challenging water treatment applications. The “brains” in membrane systems, IntelliFlux learns how the filter responds to the influent water quality to determine custom-optimized flux maintenance actions: backwash (pumping water backwards through the filters media), clean-in-place or CIP (a method of cleaning the interior surfaces of process equipment), regeneration (this uses water softeners to “regenerate” resin beads to soften the water), among others.

“Currently we have a system on site from Water Planet which does 500 barrels a day,” Sweetwater Manager Dundee Kelbel told Bakersfield Now. “But, our intent is obviously to put in an industrial facility long term here inside this operation which would handle about 25,000 barrels — a million gallons, if you will — on a daily basis.”

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