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Publication details “Inner Workings” of DOE’s Produced Water Optimization Framework, PARETO
an award winning open-source software tool called PARETO that can identify the best ways to manage, treat and — when possible — reuse produced water from oil and gas operations.

Two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories that teamed to provide an award winning open-source software tool that can identify the best ways to manage, treat and — when possible — reuse produced water from oil and gas operations, have published a framework manuscript providing insights about how the project can offer environmentally sustainable, and lower-cost approaches for handling oil and gas wastewater.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) reached a development milestone with the publication of a framework manuscript describing PARETO, a cutting-edge program designed to help organizations recognize opportunities for minimizing fresh and brackish water consumption in active oil and gas development areas.

The application, which is publicly available for use, addresses key administration goals focused on water and wastewater infrastructure remediation and the development of critical clean water infrastructure. NETL and LBNL developed the program with significant input from potential users in the private sector like natural gas producer Olympus Energy and water service provider Aris Water Solutions.

When hydrocarbons are recovered from oil and gas formations through hydraulic fracturing, significant quantities of high-salinity water are co-produced. This water is generally referred to as “produced water.” Drilling and hydraulically fracturing a single shale well may consume as much as one million barrels of produced water, which is the equivalent of about 63 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Dealing with produced water is a costly part of operations. Most water brought to the surface is injected into underground formations as a disposal method. Securing disposal capacity can be a major challenge. Transportation of produced water from a well site is a logistical challenge and cost driver. Extensive pipeline networks and/or fleets of water hauling trucks are used to transport produced water.

The newly published framework document describes the “inner workings” of PARETO and serves to build confidence in the underlying platform.

“We are being fully transparent about how PARETO is structured, documented and supported and how the framework can be used for produced water management,” NETL’s Markus Drouven explained. “Future publications will address how PARETO can be used to make decisions about the desalination of produced water and reuse of treated water outside the oil and gas industry.”

He added that the project will also produce detailed best practice reports and presentations based on findings derived from industry-partnered case studies and other collaborations.

In addition to the oil and gas industry, PARETO, which won Hart Energy’s 2022 Special Meritorious Award for Engineering Innovation for its water management capabilities, is designed to be useful to other sectors like the agriculture and mining industries and regulatory agencies that are eager to make better and faster decisions about produced water.

PARETO can be run by upstream operators, midstream companies, technology providers, water end users, research organizations and regulators. The tool provides specific and actionable recommendations including:

  • Where water pipelines should be built and what size they should be.
  • Where co-produced water should be delivered for disposal, reuse, storage and/or treatment.
  • Where to place treatment facilities, how to size them, and which treatment technologies to consider using.
  • Which beneficial reuse options are attainable.
  • How to distribute treated produced water as well as concentrated brine to potential end users like mining companies and disposal facilities.

NETL is a DOE national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By using its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.

LBNL conducts research across a wide range of scientific disciplines that are divided into six main science thrusts: advancing integrated fundamental energy science, integrative biological and environmental system science, advanced computing for science impact, discovering the fundamental properties of matter and energy, accelerators for the future, and developing energy technology innovations for a sustainable future.