Founded to enhance our water recovery and reuse, Chesapeake’s Aqua Renew® program uses state-of-the-art technology in an effort to recycle produced water in our operations from the Barnett Shale of North-central Texas to the Marcellus Shale of northern Pennsylvania.
Produced water is a naturally occurring by-product natural gas and oil extraction. It is generally laden with various salts, sand and silt found naturally in the earth and travels from the producing formation through the wellbore to the surface with natural gas and oil during completion and production operations.
Not all produced water can be recycled or reused for drilling operations. Historically, salt content has often prevented reuse as many hydraulic fracturing additives would not perform properly in water with a high salt content.
To reclaim produced water as a way to conserve water, we developed Aqua Renew in 2006 through a partnership with the Barnett Shale Water Conservation and Management Committee in North Texas. We also collaborated with the City of Fort Worth, Texas, to explore possibilities of recycling produced water in the Barnett.
The program has evolved since this time, and both our Marcellus and Utica divisions are treating and recycling a vast majority of our produced water. At each Marcellus or Utica wellsite, it is collected and stored in on-site holding tanks before being transferred to central filtration locations where it is pumped through filters designed to remove any suspended solids or particles. The filtered water is then either stored in on-site tanks or transported to the next well scheduled for hydraulic fracturing. The water is tested for salt and other mineral content to determine the rate at which it can be blended with freshwater for proper quality and quantity. This process has allowed us to filter and reuse more than 10 million gallons of produced water a month in Marcellus and Utica completion operations.
With such large volumes of recycled water, the company has seen more than environmental advantages, with an estimated average savings of $12 million a year in our Eastern Division alone. Although we still have to mix the recycled produced water with freshwater to ensure the proper mixture, every gallon of produced water we filter and reuse is one less gallon that has to be trucked to a disposal well and one less gallon of freshwater we have to purchasee.
Aqua Renew is continuing to expand across the company. While freshwater is still the preferred fluid, we are currently experimenting with newer additives and higher concentrations of salt in base fluids. In fact, a group of test wells in Northwest Oklahoma were hydraulic fractured using 100% produced water, or saltwater, from the same zone. We are monitoring these wells to determine if there is any long-term production impact. We are also exploring the use of brackish, water not suited for drinking, aquifers as potential sources for fracturing fluids.
Other factors also contribute to the success and availability of our Aqua Renew program. State regulations play a major role in the industry’s ability to recycle or reuse produced water. In addition, wellsite location also influences produced water management. For instance, in some areas of the Haynesville Shale, well locations are widely spaced. Due to this distance, a centralized treatment facility would result in higher volumes of truck traffic than that associated with the disposal of the fluid in a nearby SWD.
As we continue to evaluate new technologies and applications and partner with a number of environmental organizations, our Aqua Renew program is poised to expand throughout our areas of operation.