Produced Water Barging Provides a Cost Saving Disposal Solution for Operators in Appalachia

To date, transportation of production water via barge has eluded the Appalachian Basin due to several hurdles.  After diligently getting all permits & authorizations approved, the dream finally became a reality. With the recent merger of DeepRock Disposal Solutions (DeepRock) and Fountain Quail Energy Services, the combined company operating under the DeepRock name will occupy two well positioned offload sites for produced water via barge creating a single touchpoint for all customers. This alternative solution will allow companies to reduce costs by providing them with a more viable option for disposal, with distance previously being a cost concern for many.

Transporting production water via barge advances this existing operation far beyond a simple disposal solution, and into a water management network with far reaching goals. The question becomes how do we go from a simple commoditized disposal to a specialized operation? With roughly 30+ permits and authorizations in hand, we are in conversation with 7 offloading terminals in different stages of development located along the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers. Guttman Energy Terminal located in Belle Vernon, PA and Comtech Industries Terminal in Bellaire, OH will be the initial loading terminals for the barge service.

The increased capacity of a single barge changes the way we think about produced water transportation. It provides a more cost-effective option for operators, as well as reduces trucking emissions from long haul trips.

A single barge can hold approximately 24,000 BBLS of production water, which is equivalent to 220+ truck loads. After receiving a certificate of inspection and an authorization for hauling production water from the United States Coast Guard, we have one barge in possession with access to additional barges for future expansion. The Guttman Energy terminal in Belle Vernon, PA is ready to load today with an infrastructure set in place to unload produced water directly from trucks into the barge, with a potential storage tank being constructed on site in the future. The terminal in Bellaire, which sits right under the Rt. 470 bridge, is in the process of obtaining the permit to load the barge straight from storage tanks that will be set on location. Due to competing economics with all-in gate fees to haul production water down the river, it sets Bellaire and Belle Vernon apart from other area disposal sites.  Additionally, we are in conversation with multiple entities to transform existing piping networks into produced fluid networks. With multiple operators already utilizing freshwater lines coming from the Ohio river to feed the frac pad, reversing the flow would allow for produced water to flow from the frac directly into the barge at a local terminal eliminating truck travel completely. With slight infrastructure changes being the upfront cost, operators would begin to save money with pumping fees and the all-in gate price being the only costs to consider.

The yellow locations will be the initial loading terminals for the barge service; Guttman Energy in Belle Vernon, PA and the Comtech Industries terminal located in Bellaire, OH. The red locations are the offload sites; DeepRock Marietta in Marietta, OH and DeepRock’s Portland (OH) facility.

Once the production water is dropped off, the barge is loaded and the all-in costs have been paid, where is this water being hauled? After the merger in the Fall of 2020, DeepRock Disposal quickly became one of the largest saltwater disposal (SWD) operators in the Appalachian Basin with a total of 12 wells, at 5 Class II Underground Injection Control (UIC) facilities providing a total capacity of 50,000 BBLS of production water per day. With the buildout of barge offload facilities in both Marietta and Portland, OH, we will be able to reach an entirely new base of customers at an incredible scale. Marietta and Portland’s facilities already contain the permits needed to store production water, as well as their UIC permits. The offload capacity in those two locations combined is over 30,000 BBLS/day with additional permits in hand for the addition of new wells. With a permit from the Ohio Department of Transportation, we have begun making the requisite facility modifications underneath a class 1 railroad and Rt. 77 for a quick offload directly from the barge dock into the Marietta facility. With plans for a similar construction layout, the Mills facility in Portland will soon follow.

            To further optimize this water management network solution, we now have the ability to transport mixed loads into the DeepRock Marietta Facility, via barge, for condensate separation and removal. Utilizing Comtech Industries’ HC-DETX Condensate Detection technology, a two-way valve was designed to separate the condensate from the production water upon detection. With the water being directed downhole, the condensate will be separated into a splash tank that can be monitored for inventory levels. Once full, it can be loaded onto the barge and shipped away to a refinery. Having the ability to utilize the barge at such capacity expands the exploration threshold infinitely.

The DeepRock Marietta facility will be first to begin offloading barges in Q1 of 2021. Construction is already underway to build piping underneath a class 1 railroad, as well as Rt. 77 for a quick offload from the barge dock into the facility.

The first facility, DeepRock-Marietta, will begin to offload barges in Q1 of 2021, and the second facility in Portland will be ready for offload by mid-2021 creating redundancy and scale. With production water being on the rivers in the beginning of the new year, we want to put an emphasis on the environmental and safety benefits that barging brings. With less trucks on the road every day, we are creating safer roadways in our communities by reducing the risk associated with trucking accidents. At the hands of our system, we can begin to reduce trucking emissions which will also provide significant benefits to the environment and our communities.

            Barging in the Appalachian Basin is the future of production water transportation. Not only will it help drastically lower the all-in cost of water disposal for our current operators but barging also provides even more flexibility and convenience due to their unsettling distances from current disposal facilities. The advantages of being able to haul produced water in such a capacity is just the beginning, but creating an entirely new water management network with competitive locations and costs is just one of the ways we continue to innovate for the success of our customers and environment.

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