September 2017

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Viewpoint: Advanced H2O systems and the drive for efficiency

For both upstream and downstream operations, H2O is a critical resource in the oil and gas industry.

Andersen, K., Veolia Water Americas

For both upstream and downstream operations, H2O is a critical resource in the oil and gas industry. The industry has seen several challenges in recent years, including economic hardships due to lower oil prices, burdensome regulations and the effects of climate change that have ranged from flooding to drought in some areas of the US and internationally.

These challenges have caused the industry to look for ways to improve productivity, control costs and better manage the resources of H2O and energy. In turn, Veolia is challenged to help the industry achieve those goals by developing and implementing smarter H2O systems to maximize efficiency, while reducing risk and cost.

Today’s H2O systems can do more than traditional H2O treatment. The goal is to foster H2O reuse and reclaim energy from the production processes, as well as any byproducts that can be captured and repurposed. In keeping with this goal, our company’s mission statement is “Resourcing the World.” This tagline refers to the process of developing access to resources, preserving and replenishing them; in essence, achieving a circular economy in which waste becomes a resource.

Fig. 1. Standard products and skidded solutions can help minimize installation costs and expedite schedules.
Fig. 1. Standard products and skidded solutions can help minimize installation costs and expedite schedules.

Weathering the challenges of today

Low oil prices have not only made it more difficult for our customers in the industry to be profitable, they have also challenged us to find new ways to offer cost-effective solutions to help keep those customers profitable.

One solution is the modularization of our treatment system processes. In a recent project for a downstream plant, the H2O supply treatment system was provided in a series of containers that only needed to be set in place and connected, which resulted in significant installation cost savings. Many of our technologies used in the oil and gas industry have evolved into modular offerings in containerized or skidded systems, such as our brine management systems, MBBR Pack, ceramic membranes and reverse osmosis, among others.

These technologies are available as standard products that can be sold individually or integrated into a larger system. Since these products do not require customization, additional cost savings can be realized.

In the present economy, our engineers are challenged to “design-to-cost” integrated H2O and wastewater treatment systems. By utilizing technologies that can treat a given volume of H2O in a smaller footprint or with lower energy or chemical costs, lifecycle savings can be realized. For facilities operated by Veolia, guaranteed performance and continuous optimization of the system are typical components of the operations contract. These obligations ensure that our systems continue to provide value over long periods of time.

Outside of economic issues, H2O scarcity, climate concerns and regulations of difficult-to-treat constituents (such as mercury and selenium) are driving companies to seek new and better options for implementing H2O reuse. For example, Veolia is engineering an industrial wastewater reuse solution for a US refinery with a high-rate recovery technology. This technology would not have been considered in such an application a decade ago. We are also seeing an increased interest in treating and reusing effluent from municipal wastewater plants for industrial purposes, such as cooling tower makeup.

Smart H2O systems are our latest innovation

Historically, H2O systems offered in the marketplace were designed with a wide safety factor to ensure that the flow and quality of the H2O produced consistently met certain requirements based on an expected range of the H2O quality received by the system. While the need to meet effluent requirements is no less important, the wide safety factor often led to a design with a larger treatment capacity than is typically needed, except during peak flow or load conditions.

We now have the ability to capture H2O quality and flow data through sensors and metering devices, and to use that data in real time to make adjustments in the treatment conditions and chemistry, enabling H2O systems to be more efficient without compromising the reliability of the treated H2O quality. As a result, H2O treatment systems can be designed with a smaller footprint, which utilizes less energy and minimizes the use of H2O treatment chemicals.

By utilizing Cloud-based data management and advanced control systems, the big picture will emerge, facilitating automated optimization of treatment processes and minimizing the need for operator attention. By comparing H2O quality data from numerous installations that utilize the same technology, these smart systems will “learn” from one another how to handle off-spec situations and make the adjustments needed. This optimization will help minimize the large margin of safety required in designs of the past. Additionally, data on the life of individual system components—from systems all over the world—will improve predictive maintenance programs that will minimize downtime and increase reliability.

Veolia has already applied numerous smart H2O systems at utilities and industries around the world, and is now bringing this vision of H2O treatment to the oil and gas market.

Safety remains the focus

Through all of the changes that will affect the H2O treatment industry in the coming years, the one commitment that we cannot, and will not, change is our culture of safety. I am not only referring to safe-drinking H2O systems, but also safety in the way we conduct our projects. A great amount of risk is involved in constructing or installing industrial H2O systems, and we owe it to our employees and to our customers to maintain a stellar safety record for ourselves and for our subcontractors. Safety is one constant that cannot be compromised in the way we carry out our projects.

In all of our business activities, we must remember that the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for ourselves and for future generations. With clean H2O solutions and responsible energy management, we have come one step closer to preserving our environment and to “Resourcing the World.” HP

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