We can learn a lot from what’s happened over the last few years in the oil production sector. Not long ago, frac sand was a hot topic and the demand for water kept rising with the increase in lateral wells. Today, many companies have had to regroup to survive the ups and downs stemming from significant variations in oil production. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2021, oil production will increase a small percentage before decreasing again in 2022. In any event, produced water remains an essential part of oil production. The need for water is enormous, and produced water usage is estimated to be 4, 7, or even 10 barrels of produced water for every barrel of produced oil. Regardless of which ratio fits your region, that’s a lot of water – especially if crude oil activity in 2021 reaches the projected average of 11.3 million barrels per day. Your processes will need to improve for you to remain profitable. But how can this be accomplished?
There’s always room for improvement
For an adaptive industry like oil production, there’s always a new or better way to manage a process. Drilling efficiencies have continued to increase over the years, and recent trends have made it easier than ever before to recycle produced water. For example, some produced water is cleaned up and used for irrigation, dust control, and de-icing roads. Or, if the water isn’t being recycled, it can be treated at higher levels and re-injected into the well to maintain pressure. This process must be carefully monitored to optimize output and prevent shutdown of hydrocarbon stimulation. If that occurs, it can prove costly and negatively impact the bottom line.
Fighting the costs effectively
With this much water being produced, the demand for water recycling has gained traction, which means produced and recycled water must be moved efficiently. Whether you’re a producer managing your water assets or a midstream water company serving the needs of the industry, you know that transporting water from point A to point B via pipelines is safer and more economical than transporting it in trucks. However, the upfront cost of laying miles of pipe is high, and in some areas the infrastructure is not yet there or not feasible at all. Even if produced water is destined to be disposed of in remote areas or treated at central locations, holding it in storage tanks or pits is very likely part of the process. Successful water management requires a combination of methods, and today’s environment requires us to take a closer look at where instrumentation can be implemented. Magnetic flow meters, level devices, and even temperature sensors have become “must-haves” for improving efficiencies.
Taking the guesswork out your inventory levels with the appropriate instrument, rather than depending on manual intervention or electromechanical devices, will prove beneficial because uncertainties are removed. Being aware of how much water you are consistently piping can provide a quick return on your initial investment in instrumentation, since you’ll know exactly how much to pay or charge customers when receiving or outsourcing water.
Letting the process drive the instrumentation
Magnetic flow meters with Ebonite or EPDM liners are well-suited for wastewater containing solids and aggressive media. They are affected only minimally by variations in water composition, thereby remaining accurate for long-term use. In remote areas where power isn’t readily available, long-life, battery-operated models offer an ideal solution. For example, in some impoundments where water is stored and flow measurement is required, power may be intermittent or not available at all. Battery-powered magmeters are therefore optimal.
Filling trucks to the brim
While magnetic flow meters have a huge presence in the oil and gas industry, level devices are just as important. Level instrumentation, particularly radar level technology, is ideal for level tank measurement. This technology performs well in changeable environments where the airspace inside vessels varies with gases due to hydrocarbons. Radar transmitters are also non-contacting, which means they don’t need to contact the media to provide a measurement – making them virtually maintenance-free.
Cost-effective, easy-to-install compact radar transmitters are the latest development in radar technology. Depending on the desired outcome for produced water, different chemicals must be used to treat it. Often these chemicals are stored in plastic totes or containers without ports for instrumentation. Today’s small and lightweight radar transmitters can be installed non-intrusively on top of these containers. This eliminates the possibility of running out of chemicals and ensures you’re paying accurately for deliveries. It’s also important to keep in mind that transporting water is more costly than piping it. With some compact radar transmitters, you can maximize truck capacity and fill them to the brim with remarkable accuracy – and, if you need to dispose of or collect water along the way, you will know the precise amounts that are transacted.
Every so often, the oil and gas industry must adapt to the latest “new normal.” This forces the industry to become more creative, and those who survive manage to remain profitable. But remember, there is always room for improvement – even if it seems like a small gain. Considering the massive volumes of water the industry deals with, small gains translate to big savings in the long run. Instrumentation is the name of the game.
Are you up for the challenge of making your processes more efficient?