Water Lens Offers Alterative for Water Field Testing

The oil and gas industry’s focus on efficiency in the oilfield also includes how its tests water used in exploration and production, an official with a water testing company told Rigzone.

In the past, water at oil and gas well sites was sent away for testing. It can take days or weeks to get answers for laboratory test results; for offshore water testing, it can take longer, Keith Cole, CEO of Water Lens LLC, said. For the past several years, Water Lens has worked to develop a device that allows operators to conduct laboratory water quality testing in the field in 10 minutes.

The technology, which can measure 20 different parameters, is a plate with sensors that changes colors when water is added. The plate is then placed in a spectrometer to scan the plate’s profile, which reads the colors to set the calibration curve. The test device is used in conjunction with a water treatment program, letting operators know if and how they should treat water.

Water Lens works with water treatment companies, oilfield service companies, offshore and onshore operators and chemical companies, Cole stated. These companies include the largest supermajors and service companies. The company’s testing technology is in use in the Eagle Ford and Permian plays, as well as with companies in the Marcellus and the Middle East.

Water is difficult to test because the properties of water change based on its chemistry, which is, in turn, what an operator is trying to measure, Cole explained. Produced water is quite possibly the most difficult type of water to test. 

“Highly saline water has very different chemical properties from fresh water.  So, testing it requires taking that into consideration. In practice, water stored in lined pits is not going to be homogeneous. The top of the water is exposed to the elements while the bottom is not. The same way lakes turn over with the seasons, lined pits of water are constantly turning over. Taking into consideration that water is also constantly being removed from the pit and new water is being added from different sources, the water chemistry of a lined pit can be quite complex.” 

“By formulating our system to work with produced water, we have made it robust enough to test virtually any water sample. This makes it easily useful for many different applications such as drilling fluids, cements, flowback, production chemicals and even downstream.”

Most of the methods the oil and gas industry uses to test water are the same ones that have been around for decades, Cole noted. Originally, there were no other options. So, despite the methods not being designed for complex oilfield waters, they found a foothold in the protocols of most organizations. 

The company went commercial over the past year after several years of research and development. Despite the downturn, the company’s technology has gotten a lot of traction as companies look to reduce well downtime due to catastrophic events due to water quality. Water Lens’ testing technology also can help reduce chemical costs and improve production.

Cole thinks that 2017 will prove a great year for the oil and gas industry and for Water Lens’ solution. Twenty to 30 companies are looking at Water Lens’ technology, and an increase in oil prices will only help the company. Water Lens expects several companies that have conducted trials of the technology to implement it into their operations.

The surge in hydraulic fracturing that led to the U.S. shale revolution also increased the amount of water used in oil and gas operations. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the amount of water used to hydraulically fracture a well varies. In the Marcellus shale in 2012, 4.5 million gallons of water were needed. In the Eagle Ford, the amount of water was estimated in 2012 at 4.3 million gallons.

Concerns over the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on local water resources led U.S. Congress to commission the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study fracking’s impact on water. Earlier this month, EPA concluded in its final report that hydraulic fracturing impacts drinking water in some situations. The decision was seen as a reversal of EPA’s previous conclusion that fracking had no systemic impact on water resources. Energy industry groups viewed the final conclusion as EPA giving into political pressure.

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