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With Swirltex technology, ARC Resources can reduce freshwater use and reduce carbon emissions. [Image: ARC Resources]

By ARC Resources

Water is a critical resource that needs to be responsibly managed. Across the energy industry, demand for water treatment options that minimize freshwater use has increased. Currently, produced water is safely disposed in saline aquifers deep underground or trucked offsite for treatment. 

In collaboration with Swirltex, ARC Resources is working to improve its water recycling capabilities through a new clean technology that is readily scalable. Through a single Swirltex unit, approximately 300,000 m3 of produced water can be treated annually. 

Water management at ARC

ARC Resources has long recognized the importance of protecting water resources and reducing overall freshwater use in its operations, says Justin Gregoire, emissions reduction engineer at ARC.

“If we can re-use the water that comes out of the production process, we can greatly reduce our fresh water use and lower our environmental impact,” he says.

To effectively manage its freshwater use and emissions related to transporting water to site, several water storage reservoirs have been constructed. The freshwater storage at ARC’s Sunrise facility in the Montney, for example, stores water pumped from the Kiskatinaw River during high run-off periods, with capacity to support annual development activities. 

Additionally, produced water storage at ARC’s Parkland facility, northeast of Sunrise, allows for water recycling to reduce freshwater use. From 2018 - 2020, $60 million has been invested in water infrastructure and ARC recycled 89% of produced water in that time. Using the Swirltex technology, it will be able to recycle more produced water with the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 3,800 tCO2e by 2033.

About the technology

The Swirltex system uses a proprietary method that enhances conventional membrane treatment through a process called “Buoyancy Enhanced Membrane Filtration”. Swirltex injects micro-bubbles at a high pressure to encapsulate solid contaminants in a gas mixture, thus increasing their buoyancy and allowing the particles to float. 

Next, produced water passes through a vortex-generating device which induces spinning within each tube. A portion of the produced water passes through the membrane as clean effluent, while the concentrate continues through each tube and can be recycled into a wastewater input stream. 

“What we’re doing is taking what is often considered a liability, wastewater, and turning it into a precious resource,” Swirltex CEO Rob Budianto says. “We are trying to address the challenge of minimizing fresh water use and re-using wastewater for other applications.”

The Swirltex system is housed in modular containerized units, creating a highly mobile and flexible solution to support site-specific configuration. Water quality is predictable and stable, allowing for enhanced water recycling and decreased freshwater use in oil and gas operations.

This technology application was made possible in part by the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), a diverse pan-Canadian network of energy producers, innovators, technology vendors, academia, research institutes, financiers and government focused on accelerating new technologies that address energy challenges to improve both environmental performance and competitiveness. Through CRIN’s Reducing Environmental Footprint Technology Competition and with the support of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), high-impact technology solutions like this were recommended for federal government funding through the Strategic Innovation Fund.

View a video outlining ARC's use of the Swirltex technology here.