As production from unconventional (shale) oil and gas rises, large volumes of water are produced as a by-product. These water streams contain a variety of contaminants including: Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM), heavy metals. Treating this water incurs additional costs. Moreover, abiding by environmental regulations set by authorities is the responsibility of the operator. In addition, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations consume a lot of water.
This paper proposes the use of an online monitoring system to evaluate the water quality, which can be linked to a downstream program to evaluate the profitability of treating this water further. The Water Economic Feasibility Indicator (WEFI) program was also developed to help operators make decisions on the adequate water treatment technologies to employ based on economic parameters.
A case study is presented to evaluate the program, which involved using water production data from a field. The results showed that introducing Multi-Effect Distillation (MED) and Vapor Compression Distillation (VCD) technologies to treat the water further yields favorable outcomes. Graphs were plotted, demonstrating the associated costs of MED and VCD. Moreover, the cumulative net present value (NPV) of profit generated from sales of potable water is higher for VCD than MED.
Another possible use of this water is agriculture and livestock watering. This lowers the water stress in the region. Findings indicate that it is profitable to process the water to a potable/irrigation level using VCD equipment than to dispose of it, thereby providing net monetary, social, and environmental benefits.