A pilot plant under development in Wyoming will treat water extracted by drilling companies and make it pure enough to drink.
The plant is "a first-of-its-kind for oil field use, and will be able to treat up to 25,000 barrels per day of produced water, bringing the water to Class I (drinking water) standard," according to the Casper Journal.
A project of oil and gas driller Encana, the plant is known as the Neptune Water Treatment Facility. Encana has "spent the past couple of years working with Dow Water and Process Solutions and GE to create the plant," the Star Tribune reported.
The facility will take produced water "extracted during gas development, remove salts, and make it as pure as drinking water. The facility could produce as much as one million gallons of water each day," the report said.
The plant is needed because water removed during gas development is salty. "Chemicals and other organic materials could be removed, but the salt could not," the report said.
Meanwhile, government permits only allow companies to store a certain amount of salt in the ground.
"The Department of Environmental Quality required Encana to cut back the amount of salt it was producing, which meant the company had to reduce the number of wells it ran," the report said.
“This plant will allow them to treat enough water to bring those wells back into production,” a state environmental official said.
The plant will cost more than $20 million, according to the Casper Journal.
"The treated water will be piped to Boysen Reservoir, where it will come under control of the state and Bureau of Reclamation. The Neptune Plant is a pilot project, and will be used to treat produced water from wells in the existing field (known locally as Frency Draw)," the report said.
Encana’s Paul Ulrich told Wyoming Public Media that the plant will be the "third largest reverse osmosis facility in the world."
“Once we run this produced water, which is low quality, through the Neptune water treatment facility, the water will meet or exceed drinking water standards. It’s as clean as you get from bottled water,” Ulrich said in the report.
Encana provided this fact sheet on how the technology works.
For more on the water considerations of drilling companies, check out Water Online's Produced Water Treatment Resource Center
Image credit: “Produced water pond CBM Wyoming," © 2012 Jeremy Buckingham MLC, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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