CSG's positive problem

WATER treatment specialists IDE Technologies has identified a key area of uncertainty for Queensland's CSG to LNG mega-industry, but it's a good problem to have which could save the operators lots of money down the track, and also boost their green credentials in the management of it.
CSG's positive problem CSG's positive problem CSG's positive problem CSG's positive problem CSG's positive problem

IDE Australia general manager Michael Howard told Energy News on the sidelines of APPEA 2015 in Melbourne last week that aside from the project delays, CSG operators are still working out the impact of the water that will be produced from the CSG wells, as it could well be a lot lower than initially expected.

While that means more delays in determining treatment and handling methods, it's good news for both communities and industry as the operators are taking serious their requirements to provide effective management of the brine waste, and in looking for a Zero Liquid Discharge outcomes for the brine waste.

"One of the biggest issues is the prediction in the models of how much water is actually expected to be coming out - and it varies in its flows so they're still trying to determine this level," Howard told Energy News.

"It peaks then drops away, and it's about how you handle that peak and the volume and over what time frame. Until they get a real handle on that, they can't commit as to what capacity system they need.

"Generally when you treat the produced water, you end up with good quality water but also with brine waste, and that can be 50% of the volume of water you treat. So how do we treat that? You can put it in the big brine storage ponds and evaporate off, but now they're trying to concentrate that down."

This is where IDE comes in to provide the equipment to reduce the volume of brine waste, treat it through to very high quality water to be re-used for a number of applications like irrigation and beneficial re-use.

It all comes down to how much water is in the ground when they drill the wells. The problem is, while operators can predict that, it's very hard to see what the actual volumes are until they start producing the gas.

"There were predictions of quite high volumes of water that have not materialised yet, but they haven't gone to the scale of the high number of wells," Howard said. "So they're saying ‘do we really need a system capacity that's quite large, can we reduce that capacity down?'

"They're still debating where they go with that.

"Overall that's better for everybody if there's not as much water. You don't have the water volume, you don't have the cost of treating it; you don't have all the associated issues like disposal, brine waste, so there are definitely some cost benefits."

For IDE, APPEA 2015 was about sending the message out to the hydrocarbon industry that there are options for zero liquid discharge, for which IDE can provide end-to-end solution, Howard said.

"The other advantage we have is in horizontal evaporators, which reduces the brine to an effective zero liquid discharge," Howard said.

"The current concentrators in central Queensland are some 30m high, so you get visual pollution as well as the treating of the water, so with the IDE system it's much lower - only 10m high - and much easier to install. It also certainly has less energy consumption and easier to maintain."