Water or oil ?: The answer is innovation in the O&G industry

In times where a truth can be created through social networks, Colombia Energía opens a space so that in light of technical knowledge the dilemma of the year can be debated: Water management in the oil and gas industry.

The importance of dialogue with data

Some will be tired of this title, my acquaintances criticize my excessive proclivity to give data and statistics, my preparation as an engineer and my love for scientific truth leave me no other way, as one of my idols said “without data, you are just another person with an opinion. ”(W. Edwards Deming). In these times of uncertainty and fake news in different aspects of society, I voice my voice to an issue that has been widely spread based on news, opinions and / or misrepresentations, but above all on erroneous data: the false dilemma, water or oil . At present, the moral risk of information asymmetry among those who manage the policies, techniques, consequences and the environment or the community means that we are forced to raise our voices and speak with data to give more technical handling to the discussions and dialogues The discussion The media and many environmental groups, politicians and characters have taken sides against hydraulic fracturing in unconventional, one of the main, but the most used, flag is the use of water in these activities. Next, I present some arguments, with numerical bases, as to why this approach is distorted.

Unconventional is a term that applies as engineers for those resources in rocks that, given their characteristics, artificially require an increase in permeability (Figure 2), includes shale-type rocks (sedimentary rocks with clay-to-silt size Figure 1), methane associated with mantles of coal (CBM), tight sands (Tight Sands), clay shales (sometimes used as natural seals), granite, etc. whether they generate hydrocarbons or not, this without neglecting that in the PRMS-SPE, 2.4 “Unconventional resources” are defined as the accumulations of oil that extend over a large area and are not significantly affected by the influences hydrodynamics and usually do not have an obvious structural stratigraphic trap.

It is also worth differentiating clay that is a chemically sedimentary rock formed by hydrated alumina silicates (Al2O3 · 2SiO2 · 2H2O) from clay as a particle size classification.

In addition, although it sounds trivial it is necessary to differentiate hydrocarbons as a non-renewable natural resource (ie finite) and water as a renewable natural resource (which is continually being restored) imbued in a natural cycle. The much more technical question would be: how do O&G activities affect the water cycle and its availability? This is the historical approach that has been given by environmental authorities such as the EPA in the United States, Canada and Australia, among others.

History repeats itself

The oil and gas (O&G) business has been a rich source of innovation throughout its history, development and implementation of cutting-edge technologies to discover, produce and deliver increasing amounts of oil and gas in complex surface locations. of the earth (Figure 3).
In the course of this conquest and struggle to provide energy security (Figure 4) in society, convergences of technologies have emerged, through the use of scientific innovations, which have created new industries or transformed existing ones. Thus, the most representative case is the convergence of hydraulic fracturing, the directional drilling of more market conditions that made it possible to produce where it was previously completely discarded.

Figure 4. “Production” (gray) includes crude oil, unconventional oil, bituminous oil, oil sands and NLG, “consumption” (orange) also includes ethanol fuel and biodiesel, fuel used by refineries and losses. Timo Grossenbacher (University of Zurich). 2013

A success story: generalities of hydraulic fracturing in unconventional
Hydraulic fracturing of unconventional as a modern innovation especially widespread and successfully applied in the United States brought great benefits to this country, historically a net importer of energy that became an exporter of LNG (liquefied natural gas Figure 5).

Figure 5. Production LNG export USA, UCube, Rystad Energy. 2018

In 2015, exports of liquefied natural gas from the United States were nil, currently this country exports to many places, such as China with more than 500 million cubic feet of gas per day.

It is important to say that hydraulic fracturing in unconventional is one of the techniques of obtaining energy that allows to acquire more energy per volume of water used, this not only with respect to alternative fossil energies, but also to nuclear energy and biomass (Figure 6 ).

Figure 6. Water consumption as the primary extraction and processing factor, ER = enrichment, E S Spang et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 105002.

It should also be said that natural gas requires few or no treatments for its use, while in conventional oil production the refining stage is required and in the case of nuclear energy of various stages ranging from mining to mining. reprocessing However, energy from biomass is out of scale due to its high use of water and not to mention the most used renewable energy that, in addition to being diluted, diffuse, not generalizable and intermittent, requires materials and materials for its use. mining that become up to 15 times the necessary in nuclear energy (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Material performance by type of energy source, U.S. Department of Energy DOE Quadrennial Technology Review, table 10, Murray R.L. and Holbert, K.E. 2015. Nuclear Energy: an introduction to the concepts, systems, and applications of nuclear processes (7th ed). Elservier

Additionally, in the case of solar energy, the cycle requires recycling of materials, for example, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2016 projected that this amount could reach 78 million metric tons by 2050. In that sense All of these require recycling, since solar panels often contain lead, cadmium and other toxic chemicals that cannot be disposed of without breaking the entire panel (Figure 8), which is why many experts and governments consider the entire panel Solar is dangerous, including the state of California.

Figure 8. End-of-life management: Solar Photovoltaic Panels, IRENA, 2016.

In the case of unconventional natural gas we can consider current technologies and improvements such as FairmountSantrol PROPEL SSP® that reduces chemical additions between 40 and 77%, pumping times up to 14%, water heating up to 57%, water use up to 67%, required pumping units up to 50%, all this while the density of wells in the same surface area can be increased up to 60%, the EUR / section 92% (Estimated Final Recovery).

Currently one of the ways that gives greater rational use to water for energy

Gia is the natural gas used in the unconventional process, in other words, more energy is obtained per gallon of water using this process than others (MMBtu / gal).

In this way, innovation in the oil industry is essential not only to reduce costs, risks and generate greater competitiveness, but also to increase the sustainability and quality of operations and processes; which statistically amounts to reducing defects and failures in a number of cycles (a six sigma process has a maximum of 3.4 defects per million opportunities Figure 9), our industry is getting closer to this goal and makes every effort To get to her.

Figura 9. visión general del Seis Sigma, Mike L Crawley.

Hoy en día, la fracturación hidráulica es el área más innovadora de la industria O&G, donde se han presentado más solicitudes de patentes en los últimos 10 años, casi duplicando la cantidad de patentes asignadas desde 2006. Figura 10.

Figure 10. Patents related to hydraulic fracture, Creating An Innovation Index From Patent Data, Deloitte Services, LP.

As we can see, ironically, by making a holistic approach to assess how

we transform, obtain, distribute and store energy; It is undeniable that hydraulic fracturing in unconventional is a marvel of modern energy engineering by allowing us to obtain more with less.

This added to the fact that natural gas is par excellence the transition energy given its flexibility, the cleanest fossil fuel and that it has the safest reserves. Thanks to these huge amounts of natural gas, the United States has been able to reduce the amount of coal they consume for electricity generation and this has resulted in significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions (Figure 11).

Figure 11. Emission of carbon dioxide related to US energy. UU. 2005-2015, Energy Information Administration.

Innovation as the largest renewable resource © 2018 Fairmount Santrol

Our industry is very dedicated to the specialization of activities, which is beneficial in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes and learning curve, however, in the current competitive environment it is necessary to add a holistic component to operations. In some cases we have fallen into a reverie that has disconnected us from the communities and their information needs, as well as we have seen that the frontal attack on our activities, including by members of the guild, has received a correct response late.

Finally, I must say that hydraulic fracturing in unconventional is an innovation and modern wonder. O&G engineers must not only be proud, but we must also be ready, prepared and empowered to explain to the sector the multiple benefits in this area.

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