Chevron Uses Recycled Water to Boost Production at Aging California Oil Field

Chevron is using a sophisticated water treatment system to clean up produced wastewater at a Southern California oil field and using that recycled water to boost recovery from a previously idled portion of the field – demonstrating along the way that what’s good for the environment can also be good for a company’s bottom line.

The Optimized Pretreatment and Unique Separation (OPUS) system was installed at the San Ardo oil field by water treatment company Veolia a decade ago and the company continues to oversee it today.  The installation is the first of its kind to use the OPUS system as part of a produced water desalination facility and the cleaned up water is either used in steam flooding operations or safely disposed of on the surface.

San Ardo is one of the most prolific fields in California. It was initially discovered in the late 1940s and has been producing for decades. State data shows that it was pumping 21,400 barrels of oil per day in 2015, earning it the designation of being California’s eighth producing oil field. Output has actually been ticking upward annually since the OPUS system was put into place, with state data showing oil output in 2015 was nearly double production of 11,400 b/d recorded in 2008.

To counter natural production declines, the aging field has been using steam flooding since the 1960s to soften the remaining oil and coax it out of the ground.  During this process, large volumes of water rise to the surface that must later be treated and disposed of. In fact, for every barrel of oil produced in 2015, state data show about 15 barrels of water rose to the surface as well – or an average of 328,000 b/d of water per day.   

A case study by Veolia says, “Historically, a portion of this water had been recycled and softened to provide water for steam generation, with the (rest) going to local EPA class II injection wells for disposal. However, the injection zone capacity is limited and that had constrained full field development.”

That’s where to OPUS system comes in to make up the difference and ease water constraints. OPUS cleans up about 50,000 bb/d of water that using a multiple-treatment process that takes out contaminants and removes 92% of total dissolved solids.

With the treated water clean enough for reuse, the limited capacity of the injection wells becomes is less of a limiting factor in operations. The recycled water that is not used to generate steam is clean enough to meet California’s strict effluent discharge requirements and can be released through shallow wetlands into aquifer recharge basins that replenish water resources.

Veolia says the project goal was to reduce the total dissolved solids (TDS) of the feed water to less than 6,500 parts per million (pps), and the boron to less than 0.64 ppm for discharge, while achieving 75% water recovery across the treatment system and minimizing the volume of produced water. “For steam generation, the project goal was to reduce the feed water hardness to less than 2 ppm total hardness as CaCO3,” the case study said.

The system’s daily operations are overseen by Veolia, and Veolia staff also provides onsite and offsite technical and engineering support to troubleshoot issues as they arise. In short, they are responsible for ensuring that optimal function is maintained at the site.

The team displayed noteworthy ingenuity in 2005 and 2008 when a shortage of hydrochloric acid arose after powerful hurricanes pummeled the US Gulf Coast. OPUS uses hydrochloric acid in the regeneration process of the water softeners that are a part of the system. To get around this issue ad keep operations rolling, Veolia staff came up with a different concentration that lowered the field’s reliance on hydrochloric acid.

Indeed, the OPUS system is demonstrating one of the ways that producers can use technology and ingenuity to make their operations more environmentally responsible. To read the full case study on Veolia’s San Ardo project, click here. https://www.veolianorthamerica.com/en/case-studies/san-ardo-refinery

Southern California Refinery Case Study
PDF – 2.12 MB

 

Caterpillar Showcases Emissions Conscious Oilfield Drilling Technology

 

Learn about the Cat 3512E Tier 4 Final Land Electric Drive Drilling Module with Diana Hopkins, the land drilling and production marketing manager for Caterpillar Oil & Gas. The module uses NOx reduction systems and a simple diesel oxidation catalyst to reduce emissions.

Video via Caterpillar Inc. and Youtube.

Top US Oil and Gas Producers Form Collaborative Partnership to Reduce Emissions

A host of oil and natural gas operators have joined together to create a partnership designed to reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas operations across the US. The voluntary effort, called the Environmental Partnership, is comprised of 26 producers who have pledged to initially focus on reducing emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from their operations.

At the time of its launch in early December, the American Petroleum Institute said the participating companies represent operations in every major US oil and natural gas basin. They include a host of shale-focused independent producers like Southwestern Energy and Chesapeake Energy as well as several larger integrated firms like Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and Shell. The partnership will provide a platform for these producers to collaborate with stakeholders and learn from one another.

“The Environmental Partnership will help America’s natural gas and oil industry share goals, technologies and best practices that will make our environmental stewardship even stronger,” said Mark Berg, executive vice president of corporate and vertically integrated operations at Pioneer Natural Resources.

“We are proactively taking steps to reduce methane emissions to ensure the sustainability of natural gas for generations to come,” added Greg Guidry, executive vice president for Shell’s Unconventionals business.

Focus Areas

The Environmental Partnership’s inaugural initiative will focus on reducing the methane and VOC emissions associated with oil and natural gas production across the US. The initiative is comprised of three separate Environmental Performance programs for participating companies to begin to implement and phase into their operations starting on January 1, 2018.

The three voluntary programs include:

  1. Leak Program for Natural Gas and Oil Production Sources: Calls for participants to implement monitoring and timely repair of fugitive emissions at selected sites using detection methods and technologies such as Method 21 or Optical Gas Imaging cameras.
  2. Program to Replace, Remove or Retrofit High-Bleed Pneumatic Controllers: Involves the replacement, removal or retrofitting of high-bleed pneumatic controllers with low-or zero-emitting devices.
  3. Program for Manual Liquids Unloading for Natural Gas Production Sources: This program asks participants to minimize emissions associated with the removal of liquids at aging wells that can build up and restrict natural gas flow.

The effort comes as the industry is trying to get out ahead of new federal rules that could force them to implement some of the same practices targeted in the partnerships initial programs.

Oil and gas producers narrowly avoided a federal mandate to begin using similar practices at federal and tribal lands when the implementation of a new methane reduction rule by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was delayed and suspended by the Trump administration in early December. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule that was put on hold was designed to place new limits on the amount of natural gas that can be leaked from oil and gas well sites on these lands.

The BLM rules called for oil and gas producers to use technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at wells on federal and tribal lands. It also called for the periodic inspection of operations for leaks and the replacement of outdated equipment found to be venting large quantities of gas. The requirements also would have restricted venting from storage tanks and required operators to use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells.

Some portions of the BLM rule had already gone into effect since it was first published in the Federal Register in November 2016. One aspect that came into effect in January 2017 called for operators to submit a waste minimization plan with their drilling operations. That and other requirements have been suspended while other parts of the rule that would have taken effect in January 2018 have been pushed back until January 2019.

The BLM rule is just one of several emissions restrictions to arise in recent years for the oil and gas industry.  Earlier this year, US lawmakers also voted to block the implementation of a pollution rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is currently facing litigation.

Big shale producing states like Colorado and North Dakota have had more success than the federal government adopting their own unique methane reduction policies in recent years. Colorado was the first state to do so in 2014, when it adopted rules that required operators to routinely inspect for and correct methane leaks and use technology to capture 95% of emissions of VOCs and methane.

The same year, North Dakota also instituted its flaring reduction rules designed to curb the amount of associated natural gas flared by oil wells targeting the Bakken Shale.

The organization of the Environmental Partnership shows that the industry is taking such environmental concerns seriously and is taking steps to work together proactively to find ways to become better stewards of the environment.

“The industry has a long record of implementing technology and practices that have proven to increase efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of operations,” said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Petroleum Institute. “In establishing the Environmental Partnership, the natural gas and oil industry is working together to promote the most effective programs and opportunities to improve environmental performance throughout our operations.”

Inaugural Environmental Partnership Participants

  • Anadarko
  • Apache
  • BHP
  • BP
  • Chesapeake Energy
  • Cabot Oil and Gas
  • Chevron
  • Cimarex Energy
  • ConocoPhillips
  • CrownQuest
  • Devon Energy
  • Encana
  • EOG Resources
  • Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy
  • Hess
  • Marathon Oil
  • Murphy Oil
  • Newfield
  • Noble Energy
  • Occidental Petroleum
  • Pioneer Natural Resources
  • Shell
  • Southwestern Energy
  • Statoil
  • Total
  • Western Gas Partners

UN Report Examines Sustainable Development Goals for Oil & Gas

A comprehensive plan of action for social inclusion, environmental sustainability and economic development released by a trio of organizations outlines ways that the oil and gas industry can promote sustainable development.

The report, Mapping the oil and gas industry to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Atlas, explains how the industry can contribute to the achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in January of 2016. The SDGs address a number of areas, including climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption and justice.

“The overarching aim for businesses in the context of sustainable development should be to do business responsibly—to contribute to society, minimize risks and to do no harm,” according to the report’s executive summary.

The report was jointly released by UNDP, the International Finance Corporation and IPIECA, a global industry association for social and environmental issues in the oil and gas industry. It found that oil and gas companies can help achieve the SDGs by exemplifying good practices and collaborating on sustainable development, among other things.

“Achieving the goals will require partnership and collaboration between and among all sectors and industries. By mapping the linkages between the oil and gas industry and the SDGs, we hope to encourage our clients and partners to further embed the goals into their business and operations and seek out new, innovative ways to contribute to global development,” Bernard Sheahan, the global director of Infrastructure and Natural Resources at IFC, said in a press release.

The report was released last summer at the Sustainable Development Goals Business Forum organized in conjunction with the UN High-Level Political Forum.

The three organizations spend a year preparing the report, and the final product includes consultation and input from the oil and gas industry as well as from civil society, academia and international organizations.

For more information, download the report here.

First-of-its-Kind Solar Installation to Power California Heavy Oil Project

One of California’s largest oil and gas producers is preparing to build the state’s biggest solar energy project at an oilfield near Bakersfield.

Aera Energy is teaming up with GlassPoint Solar to build the project at the Belridge oil field. Once complete, it will be the first installation of its kind in the world to use solar steam and solar electricity to power oilfield operations. The installation is expected to save more than 376,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, offsetting the equivalent of 80,000 cars, more than one-third of the cars in Bakersfield today.

“Our partnership with Aera demonstrates the growing energy convergence where renewables and traditional energy leaders are working together to address some of the biggest challenges of our time,” said Sanjeev Kumar, senior vice president of Americas for GlassPoint.

Once complete, Aera says the Belridge Solar project will deliver the largest peak energy output of any solar plant in California.

The installation will consist of an 850 MWt solar thermal facility that will produce 12 million barrels of steam per year and a 26.5 MWe photovoltaic facility to generate electricity. The combined solar-generated steam and electricity will reduce the amount of natural gas now being used onsite for oilfield operations.

“Aera is committed to safe, responsible operations and is thrilled to extend our environmental leadership by using solar to power our production. Adding solar energy at Belridge allows us to continue to lead the way in the safest, most environmentally responsible energy extraction there is,” said Aera Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Christina Sistrunk.

Belridge is a heavy oil field which requires the injection of steam into the reservoir to heat the oil so that it can be pumped to the surface. This process, known as thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR), typically generates steam using natural gas. By using the thermal energy of the sun to replace the combustion of natural gas, GlassPoint’s technology will allow Area to reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint at Belridge.

The planned facility at Belridge will reduce NOx and other local pollutants, improving air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, one of California’s most challenged air districts.

California is the third-largest oil producing state in the US, with 2016 output of 510,000 barrels of oil per day, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. Heavy oil fields like Belridge account for half of the state’s crude oil production.

Aera is one of California’s largest producers, and it is responsible for 25 percent of the state’s oil and gas production. The company expects to break ground on the Belridge Solar plant in the first half of 2019. The project is slated to start producing steam and electricity as early as 2020.

Glass Point says the oil and gas industry is a prime market for renewables because it consumes up to 10% of its own energy projection. Glass Point unveiled its first commercial solar oilfield project in 2011 with Berry Petroleum in California’s Kern County and now has more than 1 gigawatt of solar oilfield projects under construction around the globe. Last year, the company was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a 2016 Technology Pioneer for its role in enabling more economical and sustainable oil production.

“By harnessing the power of the sun to produce oil, oil operators can efficiently reduce emissions using advanced technology, creating long-term benefits for the local economy and environment,” senior vice president Kumar said.

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