Tangent Environmental Technologies

On-site water treatment service cuts costs

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Courtesy of Tangent Environmental Technologies

After more than two decades in the global oilpatch, Stuart Snydmiller thinks the future for his startup firm is in water, not petroleum. Or at least waste water.

Tangent Environmental Technologies, owned with brother Jason and others, has taken existing technologies and put them together into a package that offers huge savings for drilling firms and any industrial operation that needs to process, recycle or dispose of contaminated water.

Handling water mixed with hydrocarbons is a huge expense for firms. The oil must be removed and the water treated so it can be reinjected into a deep formation, and that means hiring vacuum and water trucks, and rigs to do the injecting.

In Snydmiller's Cascade waste-water system, contaminated water is piped into a tank built into a portable metal sea transportation container, cleaned and reused -- or simply atomized and evaporated.

The first step is getting the oil out.

'We looked at a skimmer from the pollution-cleanup business. This will take off the layer of oil, removing seven tonnes an hour,' he said.

That action alone can be worth hundreds of dollars a day in recovered oil.

The next is filtration, with three filters ranging from 100 microns (slightly larger than a human hair) down to just one micron. This step removes just about everything from the water -- from solvents, detergents, sulphites, nitrates, calcium, phosphates, sodium, magnesium and chlorides to naturally occurring radioactive materials.

The filters run in pairs, so the flow will change to the second line when the first becomes plugged. The stainless steel mesh units are removed and quickly cleaned in an ultrasonic system.

Clean water can be returned to the rig or plant where it came from at the rate of about 700 barrels over 24 hours, reducing the cost of trucking in fresh water and trucking out contaminated water to a treatment plant.

A second option is to heat the water and disperse it into the atmosphere using an atomization unit that rises high above Snydmiller's unit.

'We are using something designed for the food-processing industry, with some changes. The water is reduced to very fine particles, a very fine spray is dispersed,' he said.

About one-third of the water produced each day can be atomized in a single evaporation unit, and more units can be added, allowing all the water to be dispersed.

The rental rate for a Cascade unit is $600 a day, and Snydmiller estimates it would cost $50,241 to run for 83 days on a site that requires water processing. The same work would normally cost an oil and gas firm almost $500,000 -- when the cost of two vacuum trucks, two water trucks and two injection rigs is included in bill.

'Our system makes a lot of sense,' he said.

And while it should sell itself, a unit on display in Edmonton this week was only the third one produced by the firm, which started in 2006 with a small pilot test model.

'The industry has always used the water-hauling methods, and a lot of people in the oilpatch like it that way,' said Snydmiller, a third-generation oilpatch worker.

'We are having a lot more success in Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. ... But North America is a hard sell,' he said.

'We have to get our message out that cleaning up contaminated water can be done in a different and more efficient way. Really, we have to change the way people in the oilpatch think.'

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