Banff gathering charts oil & gas territory

When H20 Innovation’s Guillaume Clairet convinced a sceptical International Desalination Association (IDA) board to hold a specialist conference in Alberta, Canada, aimed at the oil & gas industry, he must have had a vision very similar to what actually took place in the middle of May 2013.

In the spectacular setting of the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel on the fringe of the Rocky Mountains, around 180 oil men and water specialists assembled for a meeting which proved both very informative and extremely enjoyable for both sides.

Oil producers use water in many different ways and then have to dispose of the used wastewater. For many years, they have used standard industry techniques, but the rise of the search for unconventional oil is shale and tar sands, such as those in Alberta, coupled with stricter regulation, has led the industry to look for new solutions. This, coupled with a need to reduce costs and energy use, has led it to look at advanced treatment technologies, such as those provided by IDA’s members.

The first day of the two-day event was basically the oil & gas producers explaining the extraction technologies and outlining the techniques they currently using or trialling. The presentations quickly made clear the scale of integrating their long-established procedures with the fast-moving and constantly updating technologies employed in desalination and regular water reuse.

Problems of access for trials and testing, high variability in water quality and the closely guarded formulae that companies use for the fluids they employ for hydraulic fracturing , for instance, were just some of the difficulties made plain during the sessions. Terms like flowback, produced water, enhanced oil recovery and tight oil are just some of those that will have to be understood by water treatment specialists venturing into the business.

A number of companies are, of course, already embedding themselves in the oil & gas business, and some of these, such as Aquatech, IDE Technologies, Veolia, memsys and Dow, were able to display their technologies and projects on the second day of the conference. Former IDA president Lisa Henthorne of Water Standard, impressed a lot of people with her talk on how customizing water quality in enhanced oil recovery could improve the oil production and reduce production problems.

The conference wound up with presentations from a number of innovative techniques being tried out by less well known names such as Saltworks Technologies, Hydration Technology Innovations, Oasys Water and Gradient Corporation, whose presenter Prakash Narayan Govindan was unfortunately prevented from attending by visa problems.

Tom Pankratz, editor of Water Desalination Report, did his best to remedy Govindan’s absence by explaining his new carrier-gas extraction system for highly saline water streams, which won a commendation at the recent Global Water Summit in Seville.

The proceeds from the event were donated by IDA as part of it Humanitarian Outreach Program to the Canadian Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (see Editor’s Corner, page 4). With a 3-for-1 contribution from the Canadian International Development Agency, the final total reached around US$ 250,000.