Five things I learned at PWS Middle East 2019

Some key takeaways from the Produced Water Society’s 2019 conference in Muscat, Oman.

1. Water supply deficits will drive reuse
The region will produce an estimated 108 million bbl/d of water in 2019, with water volumes projected to rise to 179 million bbl/d by 2030. The challenge in handling that volume of water is enormous, as several presenters noted. However, with the right research, funding and regulations, that water could be a potential supply in the water scarce region. As an example of the need to harness new resources, Oman’s water deficit alone is nearly 2 billion bbls per year.
2. Operators are tired of deep well disposal
The largest share of the water is used to maintain pressure and enhance oil recovery in the region’s mature, heavy oil fields. The second-largest volumes of water are pumped down wells for disposal in a very costly and energy-intensive process, and only a very small amount of the water is directed towards treatment for recycling outside of the oil & gas industry. Sami Al Lawati, technical director at Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), told attendees that the goal should be to find a use for 100% of produced water.
3. Oman leads the region on sustainable water treatment
The country contains the world’s largest wetland wastewater treatment system, capable of treating about 1.1 million bbl/d of water to an oil-in-water level of 0.5 mg/l. The facility handles about 65% of the Nimr field’s produced water, and about 18% of PDO’s overall produced water, allowing the company to close four of its deep well disposal sites. Compared to traditional management practices, the Nimr project has resulted in energy savings of more than 99% and a subsequent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
4. There is interest in reusing produced water outside the oil & gas industry
Especially in Oman, several studies have been conducted to investigate the feasibility of putting treated produced water to beneficial use in industries such as agriculture. Bauer Nimr, the operator of the Nimr reed beds, is looking into using the treated water for biosaline agriculture and aquaculture. Other parties have also researched the use of this water for activities such as brickmaking, irrigation and industrial salt production.
5. Industrywide collaboration is crucial, but requires leadership
Attendees put forth a range of proposals for collaboration, including an operators group where common challenges could be discussed, a non-profit organization which would pool financial resources for joint research, an industry working group involving different stakeholder groups and many more ideas. One thing was unanimous: the different players involved in the Middle East’s oil & gas industry – producers, technology providers, government and academia – all have a role to play in combatting the produced water challenge.