Doing More With Less: Water Management Technology in the Oil and Gas Industry

Nathan Holland is the Global Product Line Director for HPump and Water systems at Baker Hughes.  He has 12 years’ experience in artificial lift and has had progressive leadership roles in sales, operations and product line management. Nathan also served our country, spending 22 years in the armed forces with the Air Force Reserve and Army National Guard.

1. What trends are you seeing in the water management market in 2020?

Answer: I am seeing a few main trends in this market that are important to pay attention to and action appropriately:

  • How do we handle Increasing produced water volumes?
  • Can we economically recycle and reuse produced water?

2. What are the new technologies that Baker Hughes is deploying in water management that are in high demand for reuse and recycling? How do they work?

Answer: Baker Hughes offers a complete suite of horizontal surface pumping systems designed to move water/oil/gas in just about every scenario you can imagine.  In considering the aforementioned trends, we really need to pay attention to the equipment and manpower intensity it can take to run an end-to-end recycle and reuse operation.  You need both human and equipment capital for gathering, conditioning and distributing recycled/reused water.  I think there is a real opportunity to introduce an automated surface pumping technology that can handle higher volumes at the right discharge pressure and is remotely controllable.  Our goal is to get this technology to the market in 2020.

3. For these technologies, what is the value proposition?

Answer: Right now, I see one value proposition being “doing more with less”.  We have been talking to customers to understand exactly what the equipment and manpower intensity looks like and I think the new technology we are releasing will be a real winner.  Today, to move water from a large settlement pond to disposal wells or frac jobs can take multiple pumps, people and trucks to run this operation. With our new technology, we can reduce the equipment intensity required and do remote operations. The water management market is still in a define mode so I think we will also see some opportunities for this technology that we might not be considering today.

HPump water management image used courtesy of Baker Hughes

4. What are some of the challenges Baker Hughes faces in water recycling and reuse? What is the impact of a Dry Year and how can you help overcome these consequences?

Answer: Water recycling and reuse is not a new concept but it is a concept that can have a different strategy or philosophy by basin, E&P company, or water management company.  We want to get into the conversation early and be a part of strategy development that can leverage everyone’s experience.

The majority of frac water is sourced from water wells and source water.  In the event of a dry year, source water can become scarce.  It is not a question of if this will happen but more of a question on when it will happen and at what magnitude.  Developing a strategy that de-risks this impact is critical.  Recycle and reuse water is a growing opportunity to help offset source water demand.  With the technology we have today and technology we are releasing in 2020, Baker Hughes is prepared to move any volume of water at the desired discharge pressure.

5. Regarding disposal, how is the Permian faring in terms of disposal capacity? How has the pressure increase affected your business?

Answer: If you look at the produced water trends over the past 5-10 years, the volumes are growing.  Future trend lines have this trajectory continuing through 2025.  I don’t think this comes as a surprise considering the number of new wells drilled during this time, specifically in the horizontal plays, and the dramatic frac size increases.

All of this, including increased seismic activity, puts a real strain on today’s saltwater disposal infrastructure and future planning.  Disposal wells will continue to be an integral part of water management but could become 2nd place to recycle and reuse if the industry works together to make this a viable option.  We have an opportunity to introduce a real systems/network approach to water management.

6. How does water treatment for disposal differ, if at all, in different shale basins? Does Baker Hughes have differentiated products for each need? If so, which would you recommend they look into for each shale?

Answer: Water treatment can and does differ between shale basins. In fact, it can even differ between wells in the same shale basin; the base products used for treatments are likely the same but the rates and concentration can differ.  Doing the right analysis and really understanding the treatment contact time required can help ensure you get the right results.  Baker Hughes has chemical experts located in every major shale basin globally.

7. I know you are passionate about Diversity & Inclusion as you have seen close up the positive impact that has in the success of your team. Can you share your D&I journey?

Answer: I have had the privilege, in my career, to lead many teams for both Baker Hughes and the military. Simply put, to get truly different results your team cannot all look the same. When you have a diverse team, the results can be truly amazing. I also believe that with proper leadership, collaboration and clear goals/objectives, most teams can be successful. But if you are in the process of picking a team, focus on diversity and inclusion and see what happens.

My leadership challenged me in 2012 to deliver a breakthrough goal in the Central, Southern and Eastern US artificial lift business. I took a real D&I approach in developing the leadership team to tackle this goal. Because we had a diverse team that brought different perspectives to the table, and we had some market tailwinds, this team delivered literal world record performance in all KPIs in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Key Takeaways

Takeaway #1: In the event of a dry year, source water can become scarce. Recycling and reusing water is a growing opportunity to help offset source water demand.

Takeaway #2: If you look at the produced water trends over the past 5-10 years, the volumes are growing.

Takeaway #3: Disposal wells continue to be an integral part of water management but could become second place to recycle and reuse if the industry works together to make this a viable option.

As the water midstream industry continues to grow, companies are facing unique staffing challenges. Progressive has been partnering with many of the top water midstream operators and private equity firms in the U.S. by providing talent with proven saltwater disposal and true produced water experience. Whether you're a business looking to hire or a professional seeking work in the water midstream industry, contact us today to learn more.

Michelle Dutemple, Recruitment Consultant for Oil & Gas

Michelle Dutemple is a Senior Consultant specializing in engineer staffing for Midstream Operators and Private Equity firms. She also volunteers as board member at RedM against human trafficking and as creative admin at Hope City. Michelle can be reached at (832) 900-5973 or via email at [email protected].

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