Wastewater Recycling Discussed During Forum At Oklahoma Capitol

Tuesday, June 14th 2016, 7:08 pm
By: News 9

To date, Oklahoma's primary response to the state's unprecedented increase in earthquakes has been placing volume restrictions on disposal wells in the most seismically active areas.

But many believe that is only part of the solution, and that a better approach is getting oil and gas producers to recycle more of their wastewater.

Wastewater recycling was the focus of a forum at the Capitol Tuesday, hosted jointly by outgoing Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, and the Ponca Tribal Council.

There are already numerous examples of recycling occurring in Oklahoma and in other oil producing states, but advocates say it's nearly enough to make a real difference.

If not for concerns raised by all the earthquakes, oil and gas companies would just keep sending the water back downhole, Morrissette said.

"But now comes a point -- a critical mass -- a point in time where that behavior has to change," said Morrissette. "If there wasn't a solution, that'd be an issue to deal with, but there is a solution, and this is the solution."

The solution Morrissette is talking about is a saltwater processing facility in West Virginia: Fairmont Brine Processing.

The owner of the facility, Brian Kalt, spoke at the forum, explaining that, through a heating and evaporation process, his facility turns brine into distilled water, salt and calcium chloride -- all usable products. He said his plant can handle about 50 to 60,000 barrels of produced water per day.

"The process certainly works in the Appalachian Basin," Kalt said. "We receive fluid from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania; the fluid is very similar in characteristic to the fluid produced here in Oklahoma."

Kalt said the biggest hurdle right now in the proliferation of facilities like his is the depressed energy prices. He needs producers to make a 5-year commitment, in order for it to be economically viable, and it's hard for most of them to think that far ahead right now.

Very generally, the cost to a producer of disposing of wastewater through his facility is $3 to $4 per barrel, as opposed to about $2 per barrel to inject the fluid into a disposal well, Kalt said.