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Texas: From Shale Boom to Water Revolution

by James Stafford of

Texas is famous the world over for two things on a massive scale: oil and droughts. Now the slick but dry state is becoming famous for water: that precious element that both resolves the drought problem and also makes it possible to pump more oil out of the ground.

Not only does Texas have the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale, but it also has the Gulf of Mexico and its massive oil deposits and endless gallons of seawater that are now economically treatable thanks to next generation water processing technology.

As NASA predicts a decades-long mega-drought later this century, next generation water processing technology coming from within the oil industry promises not only to help solve Texas’ drought problem by accessing and desalinating brackish and slightly salty water sources deep under the dry Texan surface, but to go one step further by desalinating ocean water and turning dirty water into potable water.

While conventional desalination technologies only recover about 35% of fresh water from a gallon of seawater, new Dutch technology brought to Texas by a local company recovers approximately 97% of the fresh water at an economical cost. At the same time, the new technology uses no chemicals, rendering it quite possibly the ‘greenest’ water processing technology in operation today.

This ushers in the ability to add new water sources to our current ecological system by desalinating brackish and ocean water that previously was not considered in the amount of fresh water available for human consumption.

A Water Revolution Takes Root

Texas barely survived a seven-year drought in the 1950s, when 100,000 farms and ranches were lost, and a recent study by a NASA scientist says there is a good chance Texas may see something much worse than this as global warming leads to long-term drying in the west. This time it could be a mega-drought—the worst in 1000 years—that could last for decades.

For the oil and gas industry, water-starved Texas is a highly competitive playing field and the competition between oil companies and other heavy users of water is intense. The shale boom and the hydraulic fracturing revolution have exponentially raised the stakes in this competition as demand for water has soared. Texas is where the fracking revolution began; and now it is where the water revolution is taking root.

Producers are surrounded in a pincher movement, both by critics of how much water they use and by internal pressure to ensure enough supplies of water to keep drilling and fracking.

The answer to Texas’ drought, concerns about future supplies of potable water, and oil industry fears of fracking drying up, is next generation technology that hits out at the water dilemma on three fronts simultaneously.

Salttech’s DyVaR:
Dynamic Vapor Recovery
DyVaR is a modular system comprising small vessels designated “Dynamic Vapor Recovery units” or “DyVaR Units”. These devices consist of non-metallic components that are highly modular in design. Any user-desired capacity and rate of desalination is possible with DyVaR, according to Salttech. Individual DyVaR units will treat 50 liters/hour (or 7.5 bbl/day), reaching capacities of up to 10s of m3/hr (or 1,000s of bbl/day).
The 3D vapor recovery process combines tangential forces exceeding 100G with moderate temperature and pressures, thus enabling desalination with very efficient operating statistics. The DyVaR 3D design concept is optimized to allow for maximum crystallization without scaling or fouling.
The DyVaR ZLD process combines all of the features and benefits of DyVaR’s standard technology and adds solids separation. The integrated SDU (Solids Discharge Unit) equipment is a part of the DyVaR ZLD process facilitating the separation of solid salts from the system.
The DyVaR ZLD technology can recover up to 97% clean water from any high chloride water containing dissolved salts and other solids and contaminants of up to and over 300,000 parts per million including frack flowback, oilfield produced water, and ocean water and its reverse osmosis concentrated brine reject. The remaining 3+% is discharged in the form of solid salts and minerals.
Most ocean water desalination systems produce 35% fresh water and 65% waste stream of highly concentrated brine liquid that ends up being discharged into the local waterways and oceans potentially creating harmful effects on the ecosystems.

Salttech DyVaR Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) water processing technology was developed in the Netherlands by Salttech and was launched first by Texas-based STW Resources in July last year in Mentone, Texas, in the Permian Basin. The Salttech desalination system is now providing the residents of Mentone with more drinking water than they could have ever hoped for.

This is a win-win situation for all water end users, and environmentally, there are no snags: It’s a green process all the way, with absolutely no chemicals or filtration involved. And not only is the new technology providing all of Mentone’s drinking water—its entire operations are run on solar power energy.

The Salttech systems can be manufactured to process as many gallons of water per day as is needed, according to STW Resources Holding Corp, which has the exclusive license for this technology not only in the US, but also in Canada, Mexico and Central America.

For the oil industry, this is a breakthrough technology that could save it untold sums of money by reclaiming the massive volumes of precious water used in drilling and fracking and also processing produced water that accompanies oil and gas production.

For municipalities and local governments—particularly in Texas during this time of unprecedented drought—it means future water security by accessing new sources that were previously unusable just below the Earth’s surface.

For the ecosystem, it means creative conservation.

“With the shortage of fresh water worldwide, our technology can help in many areas to relieve the shortages. We can also assist in any ocean desalination reverse operations to exclude the need to dispose of the concentrated brine reject into local waterways and oceans thus preventing any possible detrimental effects to the highly sensitive balance of the ecosystem. This Salttech DyVaR is a major technological breakthrough since we can now economically process high chloride water into potable water and not have any detrimental effects on our environment,” Stanley Weiner, CEO of STW Resources, said in a January 2015 press release.

We’ve all heard of desalination technology before, but the sticking point—as it always is with new technology—is cost. Desalination has never been economical on a commercial scale before. Until now, the price of desalinated water projects has hovered around $8 a barrel, but the Dutch version comes in at around $1.50-$2.00 per barrel, or approximately $1,100-$1,350 per acre-foot of water.

Additionally, whereas your typical desalination plant returns only about 35% of the water, Saltech technology can return 97%—and this is a key factor in the economics and environmentally positive attributes of the technology.

Mentone was just the small beginning. Another Permian Basin project is planning much bigger things.

In the Capitan Reef Aquifer, in the city of Fort Stockton, Texas, STW is now drilling its first production well and planning to drill several additional wells into this and other brackish aquifers about 2,000-4,500 feet under the surface. The goal is to start selling water in the second quarter of this year.

This is nothing like the fracking revolution and the shale boom. This is a revolution of much greater proportions—and again, it’s playing out in Texas.




That came from left field!

Amongst umpteen other implications, it throws a new light on fracking.


Good technology. Makes me wonder what Victoria,Australia recently bought and then mothballed because they found conservation was cheaper than desalination.

"exclude the need to dispose of the concentrated brine reject into local waterways and oceans": What do they do with the solids if not dump in the ocean?


Priority should be given to supply lower cost potable-fresh water for humans, animals, plants and agriculture.

Fracking needs should be far lower in the essential list.



Conservation is cheaper than desalination, but you can't get Texans to conserve squat so they HAVE to desalinate.

Nick Lyons

Conservation is cheaper than desal, but you do reach a point of diminishing returns. Here in our little coastal CA town, we have cut back household water usage by 35-40%. This means essentially no landscape watering, limited toilet flushing, abbreviated showers, re-use of dishwater, etc. etc. Our town has recently installed and commissioned a small desal/water purification plant that sources its water from a brackish water aquifer.

Recycling of wastewater is also cheaper than desal, since it is less salty--the problem is that toilet-to-faucet systems are not legal in California unless the treated water is put back into an aquifer before you pump it out again downstream. This silliness needs to change, since you just end up having to treat the water yet again once you pump it out.


DaveJ, Actually $2/barrel is about 10 times more expensive than water from Yarra Valley water which supplies Melbourne. We pay around $2/kilolitre and 1 barrel = 0.119 kilolitres. I guess our desalination plant produces water at a cost of <$3 kilolitre, since our water has the cost of repaying the desal plant built in.

So my guess is that this technology is not cost effective at large scale.


When recycling is 30 to 50 cents per barrel this technology can hardly be considered economical. The throughput is no where near the requirement for 25 to 50 thousands of barrels per day needed.


The Huntington Beach Desalination Project by Poseidon will provide water to the area and is condemned for sucking up fish and making the ocean too salty.

Only as a "by the way" do they mention that the cost is much more than water from various other sources.


Texas isn't the only state in desperate need of water. Thanks to global warming/climate change the whole southwest has been hit by a multi-year drought. California has about one year of water left. Now if we could get a certain Senator from Oklahoma to stop going out of state to throw snowballs...


The article states "...but the Dutch version comes in at around $1.50-$2.00 per barrel, or approximately $1,100-$1,350 per acre-foot of water." If it's the low estimate of $1.50/bbl (42 gal), then that's $0.0357142/gal. An acre foot is 325,841.429 gal, so that would be $11,637.52/acre foot, or roughly 10x what is stated above. Am I missing something here?


Wouldn't it be cheaper to capture fresh water from rivers, below it flows out at sea, and distribute it to dry areas with low cost long lasting re-enforced plastic large diameter pipelines?



It depends on the distance, and on whether or not the pipe has to cross State lines. If it does a new level of politics are involved and that always ups the cost.


Considering the huge volume of fresh water flowing out of the Mississippi river, one dozen large East-West pipelines could bring badly needed fresh water to the South, South-Mid West and Western States.

A few solar energy stations could supply enough clean energy for the pumping stations.

A tailor-made project for the Army Eng. Corp (between Oil Wars)


No, providing cheap water to people would just encourage people to waste it. It must be priced at a level at which people aren't willing to let it run down the drain while they answer the phone or check their email.

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