TISHOMINGO, OK - Normally, water used for hydraulic fracturing would go straight down a disposal well, but David Burnett, a petroleum engineering professor at Texas A& M, has found a way not to throw it down the drain: clean it.
"So when you do a frac job or make up a drilling fluid or acidizing or something like that, you're not putting something harmful into the well," said Burnett.
For weeks his research team, and seven companies have figured out how to treat the water with devices that remove solids, hydrocarbons and metals, and test the levels after going through the system. The end result: clear water that's already been down a well, and is ready to do it again.
"It saves me having to go to a fresh water supply to compete with a municipality, and it costs less money and I get trucks off the road," said Burnett.
John Beaver with Nitro-Lift technologies, an oil field service company, said reusing water could help oil companies in those areas where there's drought and water is scarce.
"The ultimate goal is to have a mobile unit on the well site that will process this water and clean it up, and they'll just take it to the next well and frac with it," Beaver said.
Burnett hopes this process will mean up to 30 percent of water put down a well will be reused, and that less of it will go into a disposal well. Charles Solomon works for Global Industrial Water, which will market the process to oil companies, and said they're fine tuning the process.
"We're still working on it," said Solomon. "But we have a lot of interest from all of the major companies."