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Take water management to the next level with automation

Published by , Digital Editorial Assistant
Oilfield Technology,

An automated, remotely monitored and controlled, intelligent system closes the loop on water management while increasing efficiency and reducing risk.

As digital technology and automation are applied to more activities in the oil and gas industry — from drilling and subsea safety to pipeline inspection — it’s only fitting that water management be part of this trend. And that’s precisely what TETRA Technologies has done with its recently introduced BlueLinx™ automated control system.

Take water management to the next level with automation

Where to go with the H2O

Today, because some wells produce up to 10 (or more) barrels of water for every one barrel of oil, managing water is an integral part of practically every unconventional operation. As saltwater disposal wells become a less feasible option for disposing of the produced water — due to declining capacity, distance from pad sites, and mounting regulatory constraints associated with seismicity — many operators are turning to water recycling.

That’s where TETRA comes in. The service provider has been at the forefront of engineering water management technologies to recycle produced water for use in drilling and completion operations. Recycling yields several benefits: it reduces or eliminates wastewater volumes; it reduces freshwater volumes; it reduces truck traffic; it’s more environmentally sustainable; and it’s more economical, especially in the long term.

Onward and upward, with automation

TETRA is now taking water management to the next level by automating a complex process that has historically required several on-site workers to perform routine tasks manually. The BlueLinx automated control system provides automated remote monitoring and control of produced- and fresh-water transfer, storage, recycling, treatment, blending, and distribution, as well as removal of sand from produced water and flowback.

The innovative solution begins with sensors installed on the pumps, valves, flowlines, tanks, blending controller, distribution manifold, and other components within a water management system. These sensors send data to on-site programmable logic controllers, which then analyse the data and make real-time adjustments based on predetermined settings, thus eliminating the need for workers to climb atop frac tanks, for example, while ensuring a consistent base-fluid and flowrate.

Big data and digital twins

The sensors also convey data to the cloud via cellular telemetry (or optional satellite communications). The cloud-based dashboard of the BlueLinx automated control system displays digital twins of assets in the field, enabling technicians to monitor and control parameters such as: pump speed; inlet/outlet pressures; water transfer flowrate; water composition and blend; water storage level; and water distribution — all in real time.

Whereas a manual water management system — especially one of discrete components from different suppliers — will require numerous workers on-site to constantly check and adjust the various parameters, the TETRA BlueLinx system enables a reduction of personnel physically on the ground; a full package may be operated with as few as two to three people on-site. With a manual system, reaction to operational changes can be slow and workers are exposed to more risk when they adjust valves, change filters, and empty sand traps. By contrast, the TETRA BlueLinx automated control system provides a quicker response by enabling users to adjust valves and empty sand management equipment remotely. The automated system also greatly lowers the potential for human error as well as the risk of safety and environmental incidents.

From clunky discrete to elegant integration

The BlueLinx automated control system can be applied to discrete water management components, such as just the pumps, but implementing it across an integrated water management solution yields the greatest benefit. For example, with a holistic application of the BlueLinx system, an unexpected reduction of water inflow can automatically be met by a corresponding reduction in chemical treatment — the system enables the two separate steps to communicate with each other in real time to ensure proper treatment of the water. Without such communication, a disproportionate level of chemical treatment would be wasted, drive up costs, and render the treated water unusable or, worse, damaging to the formation.

The TETRA BlueLinx automated control system also makes operations much more efficient with less human intervention. One of its greatest benefits is the capability of connected pumps to self-regulate — both discrete pumps as well as a series of pumps running along a lengthy transfer line can be programmed to automatically adjust to changing conditions. The system can also detect line-pressure changes indicating a leak and shut off a pump, thereby reducing the magnitude of the leak as well as the associated costs of remediation and nonproductive time.

Additionally, by balancing pressures and pump speeds, the BlueLinx system can help reduce the fuel consumption and unnecessary wear of pump engines. As an intelligent system informed by multiple sensors, it would know that increasing pump speed in a given operation would actually be counterproductive, whereas in a manual setup a technician might try to boost throughput by accelerating a pump, only to burn up more fuel and see no benefit to treatment. In some cases, the BlueLinx system has reduced fuel consumption as much as 30%, and using less fuel means lower emissions and fewer trucks going to the site to refuel the pumps.

Clarity and harmony, rhythm and blue

The nerve center of our BlueLinx automated control system is the cloud-based dashboard connected via either cellular or satellite link to field equipment sensors — so you are always connected to your operations no matter when or where they take place.
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The BlueLinx automated control system also provides greater operational transparency. While TETRA technicians continuously monitor operations, clients can log in to the cloud-based dashboard using a PC or mobile device and view their operations at any time and from anywhere. Should the telemetry connection be interrupted or severed, the on-site controllers maintain operations, thereby preventing incidents like tank overflow, incorrect inflow pressure, or improper blend.

Going forward, automating water management using the TETRA BlueLinx automated control system could prove to be one of the most economical solutions to recycling produced water, as the service can in the long run help yield net savings for operators by reducing nonproductive time and the number of on-site personnel while lowering safety and environmental risks. With this pioneering solution, TETRA closes the loop on water management and brings a new level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness to oil and gas operations.

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Subsea news Upstream drilling news Digital oilfield news