April 02, 2024

Bringing Advanced Water Transfer Automation from Appalachia to the Permian Basin

Spanning western Texas and eastern New Mexico, the Permian Basin is the largest oil producing basin in the United States. According to Forbes, the Permian Basin is the “King of Shale Oil”, producing almost half of the US supply. The Appalachia Basin, which reaches across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, is the largest gas-producing basin in the US. In October 2023, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that the Permian accounted for a quarter of all marketed natural gas production in the lower 48 states. Recently, Keystone Clearwater Solutions expanded our oil and gas services to West Texas, bringing years of experience in water transfer operations and our pioneering water transfer automation and control system, WaterForce®.

New challenges, new opportunities
The obvious difference between production in the Permian Basin (primarily oil) and in the Appalachia Basin (primarily gas) is geography. As a water-rich basin, both in surface and groundwater, water is vastly more accessible for hydraulic fracturing operations in Appalachia than in West Texas. In the Marcellus and Utica Basins of Appalachia, the challenge lies in how to get around trees, roads, and mountains.

“Fracs in West Texas are about as flat as they come,” says Samantha Hubbard, who leads Keystone Clearwater’s operations in the region. “In the Permian Basin, water wells are drilled and pits are constructed. Keystone Clearwater Solutions then pulls water from the pit and transfers it to the frac site, without a tree in sight.”

For its initial entry into the Permian Basin, Keystone Clearwater Solutions laid 1.3 miles of double line 12” layflat hose and relied on two 12×8 pumps. The operations were conducted throughout the day and night by a team of six technicians and also incorporated Keystone Clearwater’s proprietary water transfer automation and control system, WaterForce.

What Texas lacks in water, it makes up for in sunshine. For the recent project, solar power was used to backup a diesel generator to ensure continuous operation. Keystone Clearwater Solutions can also customize its water transfer automation and control system to include solar energy, which can provide cost-effective power and help clients further their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) goals.

Water transfer automation: the nexus of safety, efficiency and performance
Water transfer automation and control systems like WaterForce are used in oil and gas production to help reduce the impact of human error. The result is improved safety, efficiency, and performance.

“With automation, you are able to have a birds-eye view of how your whole job scope is running, from RPMs of each pump to valves and tank levels. And with our solar powered automation, we are able to increase efficiency and improve the quality of work, without adding to the carbon footprint,” said Samantha. “With an interlocked system that communicates in real time, we are able to cut down on spills and tanks overflows to improve safety. Ultimately, by employing water transfer automation, we are helping our customers save money.”

Keystone Clearwater Solutions pioneered fully autonomous water transfer on a Marcellus well production project. From initial start-up through completion, WaterForce was able to automatically respond to inputs from sensors on-site and data from the command center and control the entire water transfer process, as opposed to remote control by an operator.

“By advancing fast-deploy field automation capabilities, WaterForce moved the needle on what is possible – towards a goal of eliminating manpower in safety-sensitive areas of the well pad during frac completions. These advancements enabled the onsite water transfer headcount to be reduced to one, as well as the cost savings that come along with reduced labor requirements. It also enabled system performance enhancements via M2M (machine-to-machine) processes because we were able to remove human error factors and verbal communication dependencies,” said Edward Strauser, Director of Automation.

Moving water forward
While Keystone Clearwater Solutions is new to Texas, we have decades of experience providing solutions for safer, more efficient water transfer, water management, and environmental services.

With an experienced workforce of more than 700 and a full range of equipment and services, including WaterForce advanced automation, Keystone Clearwater Solutions has the assets to serve the water management needs of oil and gas production in the Mid-Atlantic region and Texas.

Visit KeystoneClear.Com for more information.

Learn more about Keystone Clearwater’s strategic partner, solar installer Coral Reef Partners.

Keystone Clearwater Solutions’ fleet includes Atlas Copco diesel generators like these available for rent or purchase by our FieldForce Rentals, Services, & Sales division.