Meeting the Middle East region’s produced water challenge

Opening addresses from this year’s Produced Water Society Middle East 2019 conference emphasized the need for cooperation to help tackle growing water volumes

In the past decade the Middle East’s oil-producing countries have made advances in managing growing produced water volumes, but they will still face challenges in the years ahead. The Produced Water Society Middle East 2019 conference opened with keynote addresses on this topic by representatives of two top producers: Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Saudi Aramco.
Sami Al Lawati, technical director of the Omani national oil company (NOC), highlighted the steps the company has taken towards sustainable produced water management, such as the development of the Nimr reed beds water treatment facility. That project has allowed the company to shift more than 1 million bbl/d to surface disposal at less than 1% of the energy utilized for deep well disposal.
Saudi Aramco’s general manager for Southern Area oil operations, Fahad Al-AbdulKareem, discussed the progress the company has made. The NOC’s wells are being designed to enable improved water management in the reservoir, and several projects have also been implemented to optimize surface facilities and develop oil-water separation technologies. All of these programs have allowed Saudi Aramco to reduce costs and boost efficiency.
Al-AbdulKareem also discussed the company’s research regarding the use of ultra-high reverse osmosis membranes to desalinate highly saline produced water. “We have used some of these technologies recently and had proven success,” he told the audience. “We hope this will enable us to reuse produced water before it is injected and stop consuming brackish groundwater at our facilities.”
Al Lawati explained some of the ways PDO is putting produced water to use, such as for enhanced oil recovery, but noted the need to determine how more value could be generated from the resource. Novel opportunities include brickmaking, salt production and growing salt-tolerant crops.
“It is important that we link up together to synergize our efforts with the aim of actually utilizing 100% of the produced water,” Al Lawati said at the end of his address. “To do that, we require a lot of research and a lot of continuous collaboration […] between all parties involved.”