Assessing Key Unconventional Shale Wastewater Trends and OpportunitiesSource: Oil and Gas Online | 6 March 2014
The dynamics of the unconventional shale wastewater treatment market has provided a huge business opportunity for existing and emerging water solutions providers. The emergence of companies offering water management and treatment services in the shale market has created some confusion as to what is the best form of dealing with the wastewater. The industry has, at present, four main options
- Treat the flowback to levels for reuse in fracking
- Deep-well injection disposal
- Reuse for hydraulic fracturing without treatment, which causes the wells to block over time
- Treat flowback to potable level standards
The varying degrees of competitors in the market are able to provide different services and treatment options. For the operator, it boils down to which one is the most applicable and cost-effective solution for its given location. The industry is asking, “Will a mainstream technology ever be utilized?” The answer for now is no—and various types of technologies will be used. Total dissolved solids, total suspended solids, and sulfur-reducing bacteria are the main contaminants that need to be addressed for wastewater recycle and reuse in fracturing operations. The industry is heading toward the use of multifunctional systems that are skid-mounted or on mobile trailer systems. This helps address key industry challenges for space and lower energy consumption and is more cost-effective than using different systems for different contaminants. This is likely to be a critical game-changer for the evolution of wastewater treatment into other industrial markets by leveraging the synergies of efficient treatments and addressing similar industry challenges. Some critics may argue that, because of the significant variance in wastewater quality found in the different shale plays, many of the systems would not be economical to use.