THWRC Awarded Proposal 513LUB0027H

Project number:            513LUB0027H

Title:                              Coupling of Produced Water Treatment and Flare Recovery            

                                      In Unconventional Oil and Gas Production

Lead PI:                        Helen Lou

Awarded amount:        $16,000


Project Abstract

Water is the base fluid and biggest component of any hydraulic fracturing operation. Produced water/flowback water is the water trapped in hydrocarbon-bearing formation that is brought to the surface along with oil and natural gas production. With a rich variety of organic and inorganic compounds, it is by far the largest volume of liquid waste generated during oil and gas recovery operations.

 The boom of shale gas industry in North America also brings in the concern of potential contamination of underground water, limited availability of fresh water, limited reinjection capacities in certain region and increased regulatory restrictions. Blessed with rich shale gas assets in Eagle Fort Shale and Barnett Shale, Texas is in urgent need of cost effective produced water treatment technologies for water recovery and beneficial use.

On the other hand, a significant amount of natural gas produced is flared every day. Statistical Data shows that 150 billion cubic meters, or 5% of global gas production was wasted in flaring. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CH4 is 20 times greater than that of CO2 and this emission cost the industry millions of dollars annually.

 A zero-discharge, near zero-emission gas field will be the most ideal case for the up-stream industry and the environment. Many attempts have been given on solving the produced water treatment issue or the flare recovery issue. However, the coupling between produced water treatment and flare gas recovery has been overlooked so far.

 This project aims at: (i). investigating the water-energy nexus in the waste management arena of the unconventional oil and gas industry; (2). developing strategies to reduce the liquid waste and gas emission from the gas production site collectively. This can be achieved through the optimal design of the produced water treatment systems, which can utilize the waste energy in the field, and a flare recovery system that can utilize the treated produced water. Conceptual process design will be developed. Its technology feasibility, economic viability and environmental advantage will be justified through computer simulation.

 The research results can be used by agencies, engineers and researchers for regional energy, economic and environmental development planning.  It will help identify key technologies for promoting environmentally responsible energy production, and reducing the discharge of hazardous wastes.   

  A team from UT Austin, led by Dr. Danny Reible, and a team from Lamar University, led by Dr. Helen Lou, will jointly work on this two-year project.