Industries including those of chemical plants, aerospace manufacturing, power plants, mining operations, as well as other facilities using boilers and other machinery require proper water treatment. These industries use large quantities of water in their processes or for cooling their product streams. Usually, they require clean desalinated water to run operations while also generating wastewater that must be managed appropriately.
More than 70% of all pollutants from these industrial operations are emitted into the water. The removal of these contaminants prior to discharge is receiving significant attention and is often regulated by various governmental authorities. It is critical that discharges of toxic components into the environment be limited to discharge requirements becoming more stringent. Non-compliance is being penalized more frequently and more heavily.
With industrial plants under operating cost pressures, MI Systems’ END technology can retrofit existing wastewater systems to provide a more efficient and economical alternative to existing wastewater treatment systems.
Oil and Gas
There are several ways the Upstream Oil & Gas industry uses fresh water. One of the most obvious is the requirement for potable water on offshore facilities. This is currently provided by Reverse Osmosis (RO) units removing the salt from seawater. However, this industry also requires fresh water for the following: to drill mud used in well construction (drill water), to mix chemicals for well treatments (such as gels and acids), to improve the efficiency of some processes (such as crude desalting), and to remove some salts from seawater to inject into the oil reservoirs for pressure maintenance (Low Salinity Water Injection). This represents a huge worldwide market.
Another Upstream Oil & Gas market that represents a more suitable entry point for MI Systems is the management of onshore water production– especially in the United States. The recent significant increase in US oil production is a result of horizontal fracturing technology. However, these fracturing jobs require copious amounts of water – often millions of gallons. When this water flows back in, it contains a cocktail of chemicals that requires proper disposal. However this frac flowback water is only a small portion of the water management challenges facing Oil & Gas operators. The salt water that is native to most oil reservoirs is produced with the oil. Over time this water cut can be as much as 99% of the total fluids produced by an oil well. Although the salts in this produced water vary widely in chemical composition and salinity levels, this produced water is usually considered to be a hazardous waste and must be handled and disposed of accordingly. In Texas, for example, this water is usually piped or hauled to a water disposal well for injection back into the ground. Because of seismic events caused by saltwater injection, the citizens of Oklahoma are pushing for a ban on new water disposal wells. The states of Ohio and Arkansas do not allow any produced water injection and, as a result, water must be hauled out of state for disposal. This described water injection and transport represents significant operating costs for producers. When the price of oil dropped drastically in 2015, many producers had to shut down their wells or produce at a loss.
This is a huge market. It is estimated that the current onshore water handling requirement in the US is approximately 850 billion gallons per year. Texas alone injected some 250 billion gallons of water last year.
The fact that MI Systems’ technology can be easily designed for a variety of water types, as well as being relatively small and portable, makes it well suited for the Oil & Gas market.
Agriculture and Livestock
Over 60 million acres are being irrigated in the United States, requiring some 51 trillion gallons of water. A large portion of this irrigation occurs in the 17 continuous Western States which receive low rainfall – requiring withdrawals from depleting freshwater aquifers. Withdrawals from brackish water aquifers are currently limited due to the salinity of the water. In many areas of the world, freshwater shortages challenge the sourcing of food. Both the agriculture and livestock industries require fresh water. Although water from brackish aquifers can be used for agricultural watering, crop yields are usually adversely affected.
Irrigation water use includes water that is applied by an irrigation system to sustain plant growth in all agricultural and horticultural practices. Irrigation also includes water that is applied for pre-irrigation, frost protection, application of chemicals, weed control, field preparation, crop cooling, harvesting, dust suppression, leaching salts from the root zone, and water lost in conveyance. In 2010, the agriculture industry withdrew an estimated 115 million gallons per day from fresh and brackish water aquifers.
The use of MI Systems’ technology for the production of treated non-potable water for the livestock watering marketplace could be a logical follow-up to our entry to the Irrigation market. This is because the purity requirements for livestock water are higher than those for irrigation, but lower than required for potable water.
Livestock water use is water associated with livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. Livestock includes dairy cows and heifers, beef cattle and calves, sheep and lambs, goats, hogs and pigs, horses, and poultry. Other livestock water uses include cooling of facilities for the animals and products, dairy sanitation and wash down of facilities, animal waste-disposal systems, and incidental water losses. At some 700 billion gallons per year in the United States, the water requirements for livestock are much smaller than for agriculture. However, this still represents a significant market opportunity for MI Systems.
Brackish Well Water
Brackish water has a salinity lower than seawater, but it is too salty to be able to be consumed by people or animals, and its use tends to lower crop yields. It is found in marshes and estuaries where fresh water mixes with seawater. It is also found in underground aquifers below freshwater aquifers. Texas, for example, is blessed with an abundance of brackish water aquifers prime for development.
MI Systems hopes to prove their capabilities in the State of Texas, and then expand that market to the rest of the United States – and to the world!
Water is the driving force of nature. Unfortunately, for our planet, fresh water supplies are now running dry at an alarming rate. The world’s population continues to soar but the rise in numbers is not being matched by an increase in supplies of fresh water.
The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than one billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water. In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January, 2015 becoming the driest since meteorological records began.
The global nature of the crisis is underlined in similar reports from other regions. In south Asia, for example, there have been massive losses of groundwater, which has been pumped up recklessly over the past decade. About 600 million people live on the area that extends from eastern Pakistan, across the hot dry plains of northern India and into Bangladesh. This land is the most intensely irrigated in the world. Up to 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater to water their crops, and water use is intensifying. At the same time, satellite images show that water supplies are shrinking at an alarming rate.
In the Middle East, swaths of countryside have been reduced to desert because of overuse of water. Iran is one of the most severely affected. Heavy consumption, coupled with poor rainfall, has ravaged its water resources and devastated its agricultural output.
Similarly, the United Arab Emirates is now investing in desalination plants and wastewater treatment units because it lacks fresh water. The country has admitted “For us, water is [now] more important than oil.”
An international dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s plans to dam the Nile has only recently been resolved. In the future, far more serious conflicts are likely to erupt as the planet dries. Even in high latitudes, the one region on Earth where rainfall is likely to intensify in coming years, climate change will still reduce water quality and pose risks due to a number of factors.
According to the International Desalination Association, 13,080 desalination plants world-wide produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day.