Arroyo Grande water recycling plant under construction
May 25, 2011
After years seeking approval, construction is now underway on a cutting edge water recycling plant—unique in the world—at the Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP) oil field in Arroyo Grande which will increase its oil production.
PXP recently broke ground for the Produced Water Reclamation Facility at its oil field off Price Canyon Road in partnership with Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies, which has been contracted to design, build and operate the plant under a 12-year agreement.
Veolia Water says the water treatment facility will be the first of its kind utilizing technology that has never been installed before with the exception of a four-month pilot scale study that was conducted at the site.
PXP was required to obtain more than half a dozen permits to be granted permission to build the water reclamation facility including a discharge permit from the Regional Water Quality Control Board which allows the company to release recycled water back into Pismo Creek.
The facility, in operation and using “a highly technical and sophisticated version of reverse osmosis technology,” is expected to produce 45,000 barrels per day of treated water that, according to Veolia Water, meets or exceeds state and federal permit requirements for cleanliness.
The completed plant, anticipated in 2013, will be used to process the water produced from increased oil extraction efforts and will allow PXP to boost daily production of marketable crude oil by thousands of barrels a day.
Over the last five years the field has produced on average about 1,300 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
“Anything that increases hydrocarbon production is helpful to the country, state and overall economy,” said Norm Witt, senior vice president of Cook Hill Properties which manages real estate assets for a number of PXP projects.
Advances in technology have enabled oil companies to produce large quantities of oil from some previously abandoned or under-performing oil fields.
In 2009, to improve oil extraction efforts at its San Luis Obispo County property, PXP spent $4 million on a capital improvement project that included drilling seven oil wells with depths averaging 1,700 feet. Because of the heaviness of the oil, the wells require continuous steam injection to operate.
When the oil is extracted from the ground, so is water which is then re-injected back into the earth. Once the water treatment facility is operational, it will allow PXP to skip the re-injection process and instead treat and discharge the water, speeding the oil recovery process.
Neither the designer nor PXP would divulge or discuss the cost to build and operate the facility, but a source close to the project who asked not to be named, says it is in the range of $65 million to $70 million.
Veolia Water General Manager Kirk Schwab says they are proud of the “societal and environmental benefits” this project will create including the “responsible development of resources.”
The technology may have future applications for PXP or the neighboring community. That reclaimed water plant sits next to the Pismo Beach sewage plant
“We are looking for opportunities for beneficial reuse, but we plan to use it on our property in the meantime,” Witt said.