SHERIDAN — A Sheridan-based water and land management firm is pioneering technology intended to serve as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional handling of waste water created as a byproduct of oil and gas production.
BeneTerra has modified existing evaporation technology to cater to the unique operational location of an oil or gas well pad.
“What this unit does is it takes produced water — wastewater that is developed as part of the oil and gas life cycle — we take that water, we evaporate it and release clean stem into the atmosphere and reduce the overall volume by up to 97 percent,” BeneTerra Business Development Manager Adam Zimmer said.
“We’re capturing that flare gas and using it as our fuel source to evaporate the water,” he added.
Controller Lesley Pearson said one of the biggest assets to a producer, and the environment, is the technology drastically cuts the volume of water that must be trucked away for permanent disposal.
“Rather than the energy producer having to haul off the whole volume of water that’s produced, we’re going to reduce that down to 3 or 5 percent,” Pearson said. “The brine solution is a much smaller volume that has to be dealt with, and that will reduce trucks on the road and wear and tear on infrastructure.”
The evaporative unit, dubbed the BV300, is part of a comprehensive water management service, BeneVap Systems. The evaporation technology comes from intellectual property recently acquired by BeneTerra from a New Mexico-based company called Evaporative Systems. The unit’s name is reflective of its place in the water handling and disposal system developed by BeneTerra known as BeneVap Systems.
Evaporative Systems has employed a similar wastewater disposal systems for various industrial uses, including landfills and food processing, for more than a decade. However, BeneTerra retooled the technology for application in the energy industry. Similar evaporative systems are currently employed in Australia and other parts of the United States.
“The technology is proven,” Pearson said. “We’re just using it in a new application.”
Zimmer said using excess gas from a well to power the BV300 enables carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere via flaring to be encapsulated in the leftover brine solution.
“I call it a beneficial use of waste gas, or gas that would otherwise just be flared into the atmosphere,” said BeneTerra Operations Manager Derek Lowe.
“Our approach is a stewardship approach,” Pearson said. “We’re always looking for a way to try to lessen that impact while still being a viable, cost-effective solution for the customer.”
The BV300 consists of an encased heating unit mounted on an 8.5-by-23 foot skid and accessory pipes. The system is designed to sit in close proximity to a well site and can process up to 300 barrels, or 12,600 gallons, of water per day. It can also operate on an alternative fuel source if excess flare gas is unavailable.
“Our unit isn’t going to be a fit at every single well you would ever drive by,” Pearson said. “We have to have adequate gas supply, have to have adequate water supply to make it worth their while.”
“It has to be far away enough from disposal facilities that we can be competitive with the price of building the equipment and operating it. There’s a lot of boxes that need to be checked for this to be a fit. It’s definitely a niche that we’re targeting,” he said.
Though not every well is a candidate for an evaporative unit to assist in wastewater reduction and disposal, Zimmer said the potential benefits for the right producer can be huge.
“We’re trying to reduce the amount of gas that is being flared, trying to reduce the amount of water that is hauled to disposal wells and injected, reduce the number of trucks that are running up and down the road, reduce the environmental impact and in infrastructure, the roads the highways the environmental liability of a truck wrecking and dumping that wastewater. We’re reducing all of that,” Zimmer said.
“By evaporating the water and putting it into the atmosphere, you’re truly putting it back into the life cycle of water. If you inject it down into a disposal well, it’s gone. There’s currently no technologies or anything that will pump that water back to the surface and utilize it. If it’s released into the atmosphere, plants and everything else are still using it,” he continued.
He added that BeneTerra might expand services to include technology that further reduces the leftover brine solution after the evaporative system has been run. Another potential progression would include capturing the steam emitted to be condensed and reutilized as a water source.
BeneTerra has contracted with a Sheridan-based manufacturer, which he wouldn’t name, to have a BV300 unit built and ready for the field by April.
Pearson said throughout the team’s innovation, keeping business based in Sheridan remained a priority.
“It was important to us to be able to manufacture it locally, get it set up here and deploy it locally,” she said. “This will be positive for Sheridan, both in the short and long term.”
“As we ramp up manufacturing, both us and our partner in the manufacturing process will have to meet that demand,” Zimmer added.