A boom in oil and natural gas extraction began a decade ago when improved hydraulic fracturing and field flooding techniques allowed more of the resource to be captured easily
The problem was that along with the resource piped to the surface were millions of gallons of wastewater contami- nated with viscous agents and caustic chemicals combined with salt.
The challenge to find safe disposal methods "has triggered a gold rush among water-treatment companies," according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
One company, Environmentally Clean Systems or ECS, operates in Newfield's Monument Butte field, cleaning flowback wastewater by plucking residual resources from the dirty fluids.
"This is Newfield's best producing well," Myton plant manager Mike Westmoreland said jokingly.
Until recently, wastewater was just material meant for disposal. Choices for managing wastewater have largely consisted of trucking water to evaporation pits, re-injecting water into the ground or recycling the water into continued use.
ECS's goal is to provide clean water using a process called electro-coagulation to separate the solid contaminants from the flowback water.
"This is not a disposal system, its an extension of the extraction process, which cleans the worst crappy water that can be piped in from the field," said vice president of operations Tony Winters.
Winters says the electrification process clots the fine-grained contaminants into bigger pieces and then, they "filter out the chunks."
The piped water comes in to a 7,200 gallon tank, settles and flows through a filtration process that catches the solids down to 5 microns in size, or about the thickness of fine human hair.
"It's a flowthrough process that handles 400 gallons a minute and can do up to'15,000 barrels in 12 hours. From the time its piped in til its flows through the filtration process and is being piped out takes 30 minutes," he said.
The outgoing water after treatment is salty, which can be further treated, piped back to the field for reuse or trucked to evaporation ponds.
"There are no 'Contaminants, in the water, it's just salty," said Jim Scadlock, vice president of marketing, adding there are additional methods available to remove salt.
ECS perfected the process, over a period of years completÂing a successful pilot study for, Newfield two years ago.
"The beauty of the system is its sustainability," Scadlock said.
"We're scalable. Right now, we have a 7,000-square-foot plant with eight full time emÂployees running 24-hours a day, but we can be anywhere in the field."
The plan for the Newfield is to eventually electrify the field, in which case, ECS will be able to double the capacity of the plant by running on-site units.
Smaller portable treatment plants could be possible say the ECS trio, which could be run on gas generators.
Either way, on-site or piped to the facility, fewer trucks are being used to transport dirty water.
It doesn't mean that evapoÂration pits are going away tomorrow, but it does mean the ponds will be holding less contaminated water.
"Better for air quality, better for the environment," Scadlock said.
ECS is a joint venture with the Tessenderlo Group, an international company, with MPR Inc. Services in water remediation processes.