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Moleaer targets big savings with nanobubble tech

Moleaer’s new advanced nanobubble aeration and oxidation solution allows customers to maintain operational flexibility while shrinking operational expenditures.

Shale producers have been seeking ways to reduce water management operational expenditures even before the March 2020 oil price crash. With the current challenges facing the industry, the need for cost-effective options is more urgent now than ever.

US-based nanobubble technology provider Moleaer recently launched a mobile advanced aeration system that allows producers and water services providers to maintain or restore pit health without having to make long-term capital investments. In the Permian Basin, the company has sold and commissioned nanobubble systems and has successfully piloted the new cost-saving mobile application with one of the largest producers.

Moleaer’s portable units can each process up to 30 bbl per minute of produced water and support pits containing up to 1 million bbl. Like its permanent counterpart, the mobile solution incorporates the company’s patented gas injection technology, which can dissolve virtually any gas into any liquid in the form of 50-200 nanometer (nm) bubbles.

“This is important because bubbles below 400-500 nm start to display the unique properties that differentiate them from all other bubbles – neutral buoyancy, unlike traditional aerators where bubbles rise to the surface and pop; strong surface charge and high oxidation potential,” Brad Hice, director of sales in the Americas region, explained to Water in Oil.

The nanobubbles’ neutral buoyancy enables more efficient gas transfer than can be achieved with traditional fine bubble aeration systems, which may only dissolve about 1-3% of gas per foot of water depth. Michael Stenstrom, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and leading expert in wastewater treatment aeration systems, has used the ASCE method to measure Moleaer’s average oxygen transfer rate at 86%.

Nanobubble technology using air or oxygen is particularly useful for oxidation during produced water treatment and pit maintenance, as it addresses iron, anaerobic bacteria and hydrogen sulfide. The systems can restore pits that have gone sour by increasing oxygen reduction potential [ORP]. Though this is usually achieved by adding oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide, Moleaer’s systems offer a chemical-free, economical alternative.

“We have demonstrated that by just applying air nanobubbles to oxidation processes and to pits, we can significantly increase ORP up to 400 mV [millivolts] from a starting point of 0 mV,” Hice said.

The company has five commercial installations and several ongoing pilots in the Delaware Basin, mainly with producers’ in-house water management divisions. Solaris Water Midstream is also a customer, with several 3.5-bbl/m units permanently installed at two locations to address pit health.

Moleaer is also looking at applications for its nanobubble technology beyond oxidation. At nano size, the bubbles exhibit a strong negative surface charge, allowing them to bond to oppositely charged particles which has been shown to improve phase separation processes. The company could harness this unique property to efficiently break up emulsions and reduce or eliminate the need for demulsifiers in the water treatment process, resulting in further operational expenditure reductions for customers.

The costs associated with oxidation and flotation applications are in the range of $0.005-0.01/bbl. Hice said this pricing could also apply to pits based on daily water volume treated relative to the monthly cost of the equipment.

Another appealing feature of Moleaer’s systems is their configuration compared to typical aeration solutions. CEO Nick Dyner told Water in Oil that the systems are mounted outside of pits, meaning installation can easily be performed while water is present and other operations are ongoing.

“If companies have existing aeration that is underperforming, they can add our system in a very simplistic way without disrupting operations,” Dyner said, emphasizing the associated cost savings. He added that both the company’s permanent and mobile systems can be offered on a rental or contract basis, depending on how long and what kinds of services are required.

Moleaer has over 400 installations in more than 20 countries worldwide for various applications where oxygen supersaturation and oxygen nanobubble oxidation is beneficial.

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