Boosting Oil Production Through Water Treatment – A Pilot Proof Point

Nov 13th 2019

The easy oil has been accessed. Increasingly firms are turning to enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to boost production. This involves pumping specialty concocted water chemistries underground to push out more oil. EOR should not be confused with fracking. Fracking “vibrates” and opens reservoir passages in shale deposits. In certain types of EOR, a specialty formulated water is injected into what may have been a traditional reservoir, with the objective to “wash out” more oil. This limits surface impacts to the environment since well life can be extended, instead of drilling new wells. However, as the water travels through the reservoir it picks up underground salts, becoming saline. This added salinity hurts the specialty formulated water properties, increasing chemical costs drastically in the case of polymer flood.

Enhanced Oil Recovery pilot treatment
I: Saltworks XtremeRO pilot operating at pilot site in Southern Alberta

Saltworks developed and delivered an EOR produced water pilot, that reliably desalted the returning produced water. This saves the client notable chemical costs: more than the cost of water treatment, in some cases. Saltworks can run a project assessment to evaluate each specific case.

In addition to the cost savings, the following benefits may be achieved:

  • Water is recycled in a closed loop, rather than discarded. This reduces both water loss to disposal wells and freshwater withdrawal from the environment
  • Higher quality water is re-injected, with lower hardness and suspended solids that can plug the formation
  • Less trucking and GHGs associated with chemical delivery to site, or hauling waste produced water off site when required

Enhanced Oil Recovery Produced Water Treatment Before and After
II: Pilot Water Samples. From left to right: Produced water, Filtrate, RO Brine, RO Permeate

The pilot operated at a live polymer flood oil field in Southern Alberta with over 97% uptime, unattended overnight, and managed well through slugs of oil as high as 800 ppm entering the plant. It met all project objectives. The results provide a roadmap to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of Canada’s valued oil reserves. The work was made possible with the generous technical and financial support of Alberta Innovates and Natural Resources Canada.


The solution is commercially available from Saltworks under our XtremeRO product line.  It may also be applied to other waters not suited for traditional reverse osmosis technology with salinity < 80,000 mg/L total dissolved solids.

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About Saltworks

Saltworks Technologies is a leader in the development and delivery of solutions for industrial wastewater treatment and desalination. Founded in 2008, the Company offers thermal and membrane systems for brine concentration, zero liquid discharge, and advanced separations. By working with customers to understand their unique challenges and focusing on continuous innovation, Saltworks’ solutions provide best-in-class performance and reliability on challenging waters. From its headquarters in Richmond, BC, Canada, Saltworks designs, builds and operates full-scale treatment plants and offers comprehensive offsite and onsite testing services with its fleet of mobile pilots.

About Alberta Innovates

Alberta Innovates invests in research, innovation and entrepreneurship to drive provincial economic growth and diversity. We provide technical expertise, entrepreneurial advice and support, opportunities for partnerships and funding to advance the best ideas. We support a broad range of research and innovation activity – from discovery to use. Collaboration is at the heart of what we do, bringing together bright minds and great ideas.

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