The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) recently approved a pilot project that may result in the recycling of as much as 85% of the freshwater used at gas drilling sites in the Barnett Shale trend.

Devon Energy Production Co. received authorization from the TRC for a pilot to filter water through three membranes to treat fracture flow-back fluid and allow most of this fluid to be reused. The Barnett Shale is a geologic formation underneath about 15 counties centered around Fort Worth that is estimated to contain more than 26.2 Tcf of gas. However, hydraulic fracturing is necessary to release the gas.

Devon’s is the second water conservation pilot approved by the commission for the Barnett. The first pilot program, by Fountain Quail Water Management of Jacksboro, was approved in 2005 and has been a technical success. Fountain Quail, using a mobile heated distillation system, processed more than 1.6 million barrels of frac fluid to recover 1.3 million barrels of reusable water. The commission has granted Fountain Quail a permanent permit to operate a frac water recycling facility in the Barnett.

“Companies like Devon and Fountain Quail are to be commended for their efforts to test innovative technologies to conserve the use of water at gas drilling sites in the Barnett Shale and to minimize the resulting saltwater that must be disposed,” said Commission Chair Elizabeth Ames Jones.

The mobile water treatment system will treat frac fluid from five to 10 Devon wells by filtering the fluid through three engineered membranes at 120 gallons per minute.

The Texas Water Development Board is currently studying the industry’s use of water in the Barnett. Estimates are that a Barnett Shale vertical well frac job uses approximately 60,000 to 80,000 bbl of water, while a horizontal well frac operation is estimated to use between 80,000 to 100,000 bbl.

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