Typically, the water would be stored in huge pits, reinjected into the ground, or treated chemically. None of these solutions was satisfactory to the owner of the land’s surface rights where a gas exploration company was planning to drill. However, a partnership between EMIT Water Discharge Technology of Sheridan, Wyo., and Severn Trent Services produced a solution that has produced positive results.
EMIT employed Severn Trent’s Higgins Loop process, which incorporates a continuous countercurrent ion exchange contactor for liquid phase separations of ionic components using solid exchange (I-X) resins. The Higgins Loop contactor is a vertical cylindrical loop containing a packed bed of I-X resin that is separated into four operating zones by butterfly, or “loop” valves. These operating zones—adsorption, regeneration, backwashing and pulsing—function like four separate vessels.
Concurrent with adsorption and in the lower section of the Higgins Loop, Na-loaded resin is regenerated with either hydrochloric or sulfuric acid to produce a small, concentrated spent brine stream. Regenerated resin is rinsed with water prior to reentering the adsorption zone to remove acid from its pores.
As resin in the upper layer of the adsorption zone becomes loaded with Na, the flows to the Higgins Loop are momentarily interrupted to allow advancement of the resin bed (pulsing) through the loop in the opposite direction of liquid flow. Liquid flows are restarted after resin pulsing is complete.
Treated water is slightly acidic due to its increased H ion strength, and it is neutralized with limestone, which also increases its calcium concentration so that the water’s sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) is less than 1.0. Spent brine containing removed Na ions has a density high enough for use as a kill fluid—a dense solution used to seal old wells.
The Higgins Loop technology makes water with high levels of Na and CO3 safe for reintroduction to the environment. The byproduct water, which once was an environmental problem, now is being reused by ranchers for irrigation, watering cattle and as a source for drinking water—and no wastewater is generated in the process.
The Higgins Loop technology has proven to be a more effective ion exchange technology than fixed bed and fluid bed systems. The Higgins Loop efficiently utilizes the resin capacity, uses less regenerant and fresh water, generates consistent product quality and minimizes wastewater volumes. The technology offers greatly expanded ranges for the use of ion exchange resins and adsorbents in commercial separations.