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An experiment to re-cycle water using Reed Beds and Saline Agriculture By Mohamed Al Lamki, Anton Sluijterman and Said Al Asmi
Water management is central in day-to-day operations in Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). In the initial stages of oil production, oil fields produce very little or no associated water. However, with time, more and more water is produced along with the oil. The associated dehydration or produced water needs to be treated initially and subsequently disposed of in accordance with environmental regulations. The main priorities in the management of produced water are to minimise the volumes produced and to re-use the produced water in beneficial and cost-effective manner. Before being put to use, most produced water requires treatment to remove traces of oil, heavy metals, boron, corrosive fluids and other solids. The treatment and disposal of produced water adds a significant operating expense for oil and gas companies and PDO is no exception. Water-handling costs include capital and operating expenses, utilities and chemicals for lifting, separating, de-oiling, filtering, pumping and injection. Produced water can be re-injected into the reservoir from which it originates, to help maintain reservoir pressure or to sweep the oil to producing wells. When produced water cannot be used to enhance production, it is disposed of in deep, saline aquifers or put to good use at surface. In Oman water discharge into shallow aquifers is almost all phased out, making injection of produced water into deep aquifers a standard practice. Importantly PDO is exploring environmentally acceptable alternatives for produced water such as reed beds and crop irrigation.
Environmental concerns have forced PDO to stop this practice and instead dispose the water into deeper oil reservoirs from which the water originated in the first place. it is essential to discuss water movement in the subsurface in the interior Oman. Water movement in the subsurface of interior Oman Prior to discussing the reed bed and saline agriculture technologies. There is however means to avoid arriving at this end point. In the past surplus water was disposed into shallow Tertiary Formations which were considered to be dry. In recent times the practice has been extended to various other fields. In recent times a lot of effort has gone into recycling production water using various means. The main use of production water is reservoir injection to boost oil production. Gels are introduced into the bore and are set against what are believed to be zones that are entirely producing water. Subsequent production however results in pressure depletion of the oil reservoir thus resulting in the upconing of water from the water leg to rise and invariably mixes with the oil. The gels then block the water entering the bore and the end result is an increase in percentage of oil production. Water and oil exist in the subsurface as separate entities. PDO has relentlessly tried to use different technologies to overcome the problem and in the process has gained a lot of experience. Oil normally floats on water due to differences in density. With this in mind PDO embarked on projects that would be beneficial to the community at large e. understanding the physical and chemical properties of the dehydration water and potential impacts on the environment. Reed bed technology was employed in Nimr oil field late 1990s. Continuous production in this mode results in water percentage to increase and eventually overtaking the oil.g. Water movement has been well studied by PDO as a result of drilling numerous water supply and oil wells. Many efforts have gone into researching methods of getting rid of produced water. recycling or re-using the water and if all means are exhausted then disposal of the water becomes the only option available for oil companies. When oil wells are completed they are normally completed in the oil leg. Chemical shut-offs are mainly carried out using polymer gels. The largest governing factor in the choice of disposal water management is the cost. The basic understanding centred on. reed bed cultivation and saline agriculture. The subject of re-cycling water in the oil industry is vast. Nowadays many methods are available to minimize water production by using mechanical and/or chemical shut-offs. Numerous options of getting rid of the water include downhole separation. until such time comes when oil production is no longer economical at which point wells are shut-in or completely abandoned. General Considerations Oil production associated water or known in the industry as dehydration water poses a great environmental challenge in oil producing countries and Oman is no exception. It is well understood that since Oligocene/Miocene times to present day there have been two major recharge systems one in the north (Oman mountains) and one in the south (Dhofar mountains) (Figure 1).1. . 2. For many years PDO has injected production water into oil producing reservoirs mainly in Yibal and Lekhwair oil fields in order to maintain reservoir pressure and boost oil production. In this paper only reed bed and salt-tolerant crops will be discussed. It is still an ongoing project and an accumulation of data has enabled PDO to assess its commercial viability with the possibility of upgrading the current set up in order to purify more water and use it as an alternative to deep water disposal. Deep water disposal is environmentally friendly but not directly beneficial to the community. Reed bed cultivation is primarily used to clean oil production water of heavy metals and oils so that the water could be used for saline agricultural purposes. There is however surplus production water which has to be dealt with.
closer to recharge improves considerably and it is this understanding that led to idea of using reed beds and saline agriculture as means of recycling water in Nimr. It is evident that the oil producing horizons water flow mimics the overlying Tertiary aquifer and both flow regimes are topographically controlled. Water quality towards the southwest. since in Nimr it is seen that the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) hardly exceed 6.BAS IN S CALE FLOW OF FORM ATION W ATERS S D EPTH 2 N 1 UM M AS S AM IM G ULF O F O M AN 0 U M M E R R A DH U M A F M M uscat 1 NA TIH G HA FM 2 R IF FM ARABI AN SEA 100 k m 3 Water flow direction 4 ? 5 LO C A TION MA P CE NT RAL O MAN HI G H 6 7 Q ARA M O UNT AI NS BI RBA HI G H SO UT H O MAN S AL T BASIN O M AN MO UNT AINS NO RT H O M AN S AL T BASI N 800 1000 1200 14 00 km 8 (x1000m) 200 400 600 Figure 1.000 mg/L. It has so far been established that the majority of water flow in the subsurface of interior Oman is through two main Geological zones namely the Umm er Radhuma in the Tertiary and the Gharif and Haima in the Paleozoic (Figures 1. Equipotential map of the Tertiary Umm er Radhuma illustrating regional flow PDO in total produces phenomenal amount of production water (Figure 4). Since that time it is envisaged that recharge into Tertiary and deeper aquifers have continued in the same manner until today. 2 and 3). Reed beds Figure 2.000 m3/day of water a day and the trend is set to continue. Oman being hyper-arid at present it is envisaged that recharge taking place in the Figure 3. Water flow in oil-producing Gharif Formation derived from reservoir water salinity Present day recharge in the middle of the country is very little and where it occurs is restricted into charging local perched aquifers. In 2003 PDO produced around 650. With this background PDO sought different means of disposing the surplus water. 3. Schematic illustration of basin scale water flow The Oilgocene/Miocene age is associated with the onset of mountain building both in the north and south of the country. Among the . Evidence of direction of water flow is derived mainly from equipotential and salinity data (Figures 2 and 3).
or Mechanical 1. PDOs Current and predicted daily rates of production water Reed beds are artificially engineered wetlands used to clean water of pollutants. The current experimental site consists of some six hectares in the Nimr area. Reed plants are halophytes that grow well in saline environments (Figure 7). Overview of Nimr reed beds experimental plot Although an established method for treating industrial wastewater.000 m3/day) and the water salinity although not potable was considered not high enough to destroy any chances of the reeds flourishing. The breaking down of such compounds normally results in harmless compounds. The water is then pre-treated and de-oiled but experience has shown that there always remain traces of oil in the sometimes up to 300 ppm.200. Variety of specialist bacteria and fungi flourish well in such conditions. Effluent water from the reed beds is collected in two evaporation ponds and a sprayevaporation pond. Cultivation of reed beds has therefore been established as an important technique of ridding production waters of hydrocarbon.000 End-users: •Agriculture •Forestry •Biosaline Agriculture •Any other 200.000 400. The water is then fed into the reeds directly (Figure 5). their source of food is normally pollutants which include a wide range of organic compounds like hydrocarbons. These ponds feed plots for bio-saline agriculture and for Solar Dew® membranes designed to purify produced water.measures it adopted was the cultivation of reed beds.000 Water from Dehydration System Pre-treatment De-oiling Bio. Greening the desert flowchart from production station to end-user Since 1999 PDO has piloted the treatment of production water by reed beds. Figure 6. train B is designed to maximize volume reduction (Figure 6). The area chosen for the experiment was Nimr with relatively low Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) water. 6000 mg/L (ppm). The reeds are specially adapted waterlogged plants with extraordinary ability to use atmospheric oxygen in order to create both aerobic and anaerobic conditions in their roots.000.000 0 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Figure 5. each consisting of four beds. Operations have demonstrated that plant growth may . 1. The source of reed beds water is directly from oil production dehydration tank facilities. The Nimr area was chosen because the field produces comparatively large amounts of water (200. the beds in train-A are designed for testing throughput of water and efficiency for the removal of oil and heavy metals from produced water followed by bio-saline agriculture trials.000 •Reed Beds •Solar Dew •Bioremediation ponds •Other 800.000 Production rate [m3/d] 600. Solar dew discussion is beyond the scope of this paper. There are two treatment trains. reed bed technology is a novel treatment process for produced water. Figure 4.
4. to produce fibers as construction material. Instead the effluent of the reed beds may be used for forestry. The water supply should match the variable demand by trees. A forestry system should be adjusted to local conditions. as well as cost of ownership. A fairly constant supply of water may be obtained from the reed bed as feed for a forestry system (Figure 8). Effluent quality: If the effluent water is to be used for agriculture. The salinity of the water after biological treatment could range between 6.000 and 11. however. crop health. A PDO imperative is that produced water should not enter the food chain. to soil depth. Due to a shallow depth of the soil profile.g. Boron may be a Figure 8. Reservoirs may help to match the water supply and demand. Train A & B 3. and the outlet concentration for oil is in the range of 0-5 ppm and salinity is around 10. although technically feasible. limiting growth factor for certain agricultural options. a larger area can be irrigated at the capacity of the tree uptake. Reed Beds in Nimr. 1. and OIW content would be less than 5 ppm. and the risk of salinization. Oil treatment capacity: Based on chemical analyses over a 6-month period in 2003. Desert forestry using saline irrigation . a capacity of oil treatment was calculated to be 17 ml oil/m2/d. e.000 ppm. two limiting factors for crop selection are the salinity of the water and boron content.000 ppm.000 ppm. capacity to treat oilcontaminated water. Figure 7.sustain even in desert environments and that natural processes in the reed bed degrade residual oil. or fodder crops are excluded from the list of water use options. as a result of seasonal variations. boron would have a value between 4 -7 ppm. such as effluent quality.g. whilst during cooler months. although species that are salt tolerant can generally also tolerate high boron concentrations. integrity and logistics. salinity rises from evaporation would have an adverse effect on growth. a subsurface drainage system similar to that in the reed beds should be considered. Boron removal at the present time is not an economic viable option. reed beds should be designed to maximize oil reduction and minimize evaporation of water to maintain the water salinity as low as possible. with a salinity of 6-8. The inlet oilin-water concentration is about 200-300 ppm (water from Production Station). A drainage system will remove accumulated salts from the soil to be collected in the evaporation ponds.1 Reed bed performance Through sampling and analysis. e. performance has been monitored and evaluated on the basis of key performance parameters. 2. thus crops for human consumption. The requirement for water storage is minimized noting that trees may grow with less water than under optimal watering conditions during the hotter months. Biosaline Agriculture & Forestry Once the reed beds have removed the hydrocarbons.
Z. Mohamed S. Bahrain . Shell Industrial Water Management conference. ter Beek. No. SPE International Conference on Health. 1. A. R. Conclusions opportunities arise to to a usable resource of bio-treatment for agriculture.M. References 1. Leong. Oil and Boron from Oilfield Wastewater by High pH Reverse Osmosis Processing. can be managed.G. N. The Nimr reed bed trial.1 ml oil per day per square meter of reed bed allowing an outflow up to 5 ppm OIW. C.S. Al-Batashi.L. J.000 m3/day by reed beds. Water to Value – Produced Water Management for Sustainable Field Development of Mature and Green Fields. G.J. approximately 65 ha of reed beds would be required. Dyke. C. Al-Hajri. The reed beds effluent would be used to irrigate an eucalyptus forest of about 1200 hectares. F. S. Terken. Hopman. Myth or reality?.).C. Al-Siyabi. Durell.. Straccia. C.A. Utvik. Hobbs.i. . G. A Process for the Removal of Salt. Vol. Verbeek. March 2002. Sides and J. Safety. The Netherlands (November 1999) 7.D. D.A large-scale reed bed system may be sized using the design data presented in this paper. Y. Malaysia. Yasmeen Al Lawati. I. Wieser Texaco Inc. like operating envelops and the limits of technical performance.213e 28p 3. It is noted that the proceeds from forestry to recover costs will come at the long term as it takes time for trees to grow (~ 12 years).H. for water clean-up by reed beds and for water re-use through agriculture and forestry-. 5.T.L.A.J. F. Khatib.H. and Environment in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production. Doran.D. Pilot study results to convert oil field produced water to drinking water or reuse quality. AIChE 1992 Annual Meeting (Miami Beach 1-6/11/92). benefits and risks. Z. Screening of schemes for large-scale deployment of produced water re-use in the desert may be carried out on basis of best total lifecycle value. P. Tao. Noordwijk. Williams.F. Greening the Desert – Produced water clean-up for irrigation. with an average OIW content of 250 ppm in the feed. Bosklopper. like soil salinisation. H. Environmental impact of produced water discharges – review of field monitoring data. P.. Hylland. GeoArabia. S. Norway 10.J. Tuohey. thus enabling water re-use in agriculture or forestry. T.T. Gurden.T. J. 4.I. Around desert oil fields convert produced water through a combination clean-up and bio-saline 6. SPE 73853. K. Curtice. H. Gurden. In order to treat 45. Solar dew – the prospect of fresh water in the desert.e. Verbeek. Kuala Lumpur.J. are derived. Research in the field has demonstrated that bio-treatment in reed beds is technically feasible as a pretreatment of open field irrigation. Bahrain (2002) 9. i. internal report. Patzelt. P. SPE 61180 (June 2000) 8. Potter. remediation potential of 17. T. Huang.4. Zwijnenberg. Studies have shown that environmental impacts. Application of reed bed technology for Produced water clean-up and re-use. SPE78551 6. J. 1996 Gulf PetroLink. 5. accounting for cost. J. The role of hydrogeology in Petroleum Development Oman. for different Greening the Desert schemes.S. Pre-print N. January 2004. Cleaning up oil contaminations in production water using novel halophilic archaea (microorganisms) from Oman.J.H. Stavanger. R. Water Chemistry conference. Al lamki and Jos J.e. Verbeek.R. Cramwinckel. SPE 54110 2. K. Drago. paper presented at Produced water – Zero discharge. M. Al-Amri. Empirical design data.
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