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In Search of Better Water Quality Through Continuous Monitoring

Water processing for the Black Bay field, in the shallow waters off Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, is done at its central facility platform. The operator, Helis Oil and Gas Company, used continuous monitoring to diagnose water treatment problems encountered after the platform was rebuilt after the devastation caused by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

The simplest way to measure return on investment for an offshore water treatment system is to determine whether using the system actually reduces the risk of paying a fine for violating water pollution laws. This has typically been done through laboratory tests—required by regulators—on periodically collected samples of treated water.

But increasingly, water testing systems are being installed on production platforms offering constant updates of the effectiveness of the water treatment systems. The argument for them is that what flows out of oil fields changes constantly, with surges and slugs dense with hydrocarbons. An unnoticed surge or slug can cause a sharp increase in the oil level in the treated water that is disposed overboard. Without quick adjustments, these excursions can create a telltale sheen around a platform, which can lead to trouble.

“There is the dreaded sheen,” said Sandy Rintoul, executive vice president of Wilks Enterprise, which was recently acquired by Spectro. “If there is a sheen on the water, watch out. The helicopters will see you pretty soon.”

Wilks sells tabletop devices, used on platforms for periodic processed water quality checks that have been used for decades. It now faces multiple competitors in a niche where new testing methods are for sale. If done properly, those tests can indicate how a platform will fare when tested for regulatory compliance.

“They (platform crews) typically use it at least once a day. You see some do it four times a day. If something is going on with the system and there is an issue, they could grab samples every hour,” said Rintoul.

A small but growing number of platforms have installed constant monitoring systems. The future of this option will depend on convincing operators that there is a favorable return on investment in monitoring systems that cost many times more than periodic checks.

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In Search of Better Water Quality Through Continuous Monitoring

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

01 March 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 3

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