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Oil Company Invests Millions on Wastewater Recycling, Ensures Water Future, Boosts the Bottom Line

Newfield Exploration, an oil company with assets primarily in Oklahoma, North Dakota and Utah, will soon be recycling its wastewater with the dual intention of improving its bottom line and ensuring it has enough water for its hydraulic fracturing operations. The company is building a wastewater recycling facility in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, to the tune of $10 million.

The Barton Water Recycle Facility will process all of the water associated with the company’s fracking operations in the Sooner Trend oil field, Anadarko Basin, and Canadian and Kingfisher counties (STACK), according to the Enid, Oklahoma, News & Eagle. Newfield Exploration expects the water recycle facility to become operational in early July.

New Tech Makes Wastewater Recycling Affordable

In the past, the cost of recycling wastewater from fracking made it an unattractive option, but with new technologies – and the threat of potential draught making water even more scarce – recycling has become a more viable option. The new facility will enable the company to reduce the amount of fresh water it uses and reduce the amount that is disposed into the wells.

“The new Barton facility will be capable of recycling both the flowback and produced water currently generated from our STACK wells and hydraulic fracturing operations,” said Newfield chairman Lee K. Boothby. “Today’s innovative technologies are allowing us to more cost-effectively recycle and reuse the water we produce from our operations.”

The Barton facility will utilize aerated biologic treatment technology to convert produced water into recycled water for hydraulic fracturing operations. The treatment process uses natural and enhanced bioremediation to separate and break down any existing impurities that may be contained in the produced water. The end result is a high-quality water primarily free of impurities—very similar to what is initially found in the reservoir rock, according to the company.

The continuing evolution of the oil and gas industry demands careful planning for water in terms of business, conservation, and the environment, said Oklahoma Corporate Commission chairman Dana Murphy. The commission oversees the Barton facility and others that treat wastewater for reuse in the oilfield.

Newfield has invested more than $40 million to date in water management infrastructure in its STACK play, the company says. The new recycling facility is located on a 30-acre site and will connect to seven pits with nearly 6.5 million barrels of storage capacity utilizing more than 70 miles of underground pipeline by the end of 2017.

Environmental Risk vs. the Need for Water Conservation

More than 40 miles of pipeline have been constructed to move water in the STACK to the facility, and by the end of 2017, the company says it plans to be moving more wastewater to the facility by pipeline than by truck. But whether by truck or pipeline, the company still faces environmental risk associated with transporting the wastewater. A spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporate Commission pointed out that “as long as it’s on the ground it does pose a hazard to drinking water, and it has to be transported and stored properly.”

In response to questions about safety, the company says the pipeline system is built with “monitoring and redundancy to alleviate the risks of leaks or spills” (via a second News & Eagle article).

Despite the risk, the Oklahoma Water Resource Board supports wastewater recycling as an offset to drought and says it is, in fact, a key component for the state’s “Water for 2060” plan which calls for a reduction in consumption – and an increase in conservation and recycling – such that the state uses no more water in 2060 than it did in 2010.

The recycling and reuse of water used in hydraulic fracturing is essential for the future of Oklahoma’s water sustainability, said a spokesperson for the Water Resource Board.

Ensuring a Future Supply

Another initiative designed to ensure a reliable future supply of water is a recent public-private partnership between the city of Midland, Texas, and Pioneer Natural Resources, which will upgrade the city’s infrastructure, save millions of gallons of freshwater and provide the oil and gas company a supply of reclaimed water for its fracking wells.

Under the agreement, Pioneer will provide $110 million in upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which would have otherwise been paid for through the city’s utilities fund. In return, Midland will provide Pioneer reclaimed wastewater from the plant for reuse.

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