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Water Quality Alert System for Detection of Brine Spills from Brine Injection Well in Torch, Ohio
Water quality alert systems are important tools that safeguard the lives of vulnerable individuals and organisms that may be exposed to contaminated water. While it is important to issue alerts in case of interruptions of water quality, the effectiveness of these alerts is largely dependent on the individuals who access this information. Impliedly, a haphazard issuance of alerts may have minimal impact in curtailing an emergency. Therefore, information should mainly focus on individuals who can stop the spread of the calamity, those who are in the affected area, and emergency and rescue teams. A brine injection well is simply an underground injection of fluids into the subsurface through a well bore. The brine injection method has been observed to be a safe and efficient method of disposing of brine in the oil and gas industry. Nonetheless, just like any system, it may fail from time to time. Accordingly, there is always a need to measure and alert necessary individuals in case of these failures. This paper will discuss on how to implement a water quality alert using e-mails, and text messages in the case of a brine spill from a brine injection well in Torch, Ohio.
Overview of an Injection Well
In general, an injection well is simply an underground injection of fluids into the subsurface through the well bore. There are three subclasses of Class 2 injection wells, salt-water disposal wells, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) wells, and hydrocarbon storage wells. In the production of oil, there is usually a need to purify the oil and salt-water mixture. In fact, there is usually an average of 10 barrels of salt water for every barrel of crude oil (Ground Water Protection Council, 2016). The resultant purification of this mixture results in the emergence of brine and oil. In salt-water disposal wells, suitable geological formations are identified where the brine is reinjected through disposal wells, which normally enhances recovery wells.
Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) injection wells work just like salt-water injection wells. In this wells, water flooding is used where the brine that was co-produced with oil is reinjected into the oil producing formation to force the oil into pumping wells. In turn, this results in additional oil recovery. The tertiary recovery process of EOR works by re-injecting the brine as well as gas, fresh water, and special additives to enhance the extraction of oil, and accordingly to extend the life of an oil well. Finally, hydrocarbon storage wells are simply underground storage of crude oil in natural occurring salt formations. These wells are designed in a manner that they enable removal as well as storing hydrocarbons.
Construction of Class 2 Well
A Class 2 well is safely constructed using a similar methodology as a type 1 well. In this case, the primary concern is usually to avoid ground water contamination from the injected brine. Accordingly, a multilayer protection system is used in this well’s development. Firstly, a hole is drilled until it reaches the depth below the lowermost underground source of drinking waters (USDW), after which as steel casing pipe of between 6.5 and 15 inches in outside diameter is installed in the entire borehole. Later, cement is installed from the bottom of the bottom to the top of the hole providing a barrier of steel and cement, which protects groundwater from contamination (Ground Water Protection Council, 2016). The second phase entails drilling below the installed steel pipe to the intended injection area. Once the drilling reaches the injection zone, a smaller steel pipe of between 4.5 and 10 inches diameter is installed from the surface to the injection zone. This pipe is called the injection casing. It is cemented from the bottom to the top. Once this stage is completed, an injection packer, which looks like a drain plug with a hole in the middle is located into the long string casing above the injection zone. This process is done by placing the injection packer in a small protective pipe – usually between 2.5 and 7.5 inches in diameter (Ground Water Protection Council, 2016). The injection packer protective pipe is known as the injection tubing.
The space between the long string and the injection tubing, which is referred to as the annulus, is filled with corrosion inhibiting fluid. The seals of the outside of the injection packer are inflated tightly against the sides of the injection casing to form seals that keep the annulus fluid in  and the injection fluid out of the space above the packer. To mitigate against risks of contamination of USDW, pressure regulators constantly monitor the changes in the pressure in the annular space (Nogues et al, 2011). Accordingly, a change in pressure is an indication of failure in the system. When such an event occurs, the well is immediately shut down before contaminations of USDW occur. Regular tests, such as injectivity test, pressure fall-off test, two-rate test, and step-rate injection tests assure that USDWs are well protected.
In light of this, if proper mechanical integrity is maintained, a brine injection well may not have any USDW (Gasda, Bachu, & Celia, 2004). Nonetheless, despite these developments, there is still a possibility of brine spills from the leakage in storage tanks before the brine is injected into the underground injection zone. Spills from reservoir tanks have the potential of causing surface water contamination and subsequent death of animal, plants, and aquatic organisms. In light of this, various measures are implemented to monitor and detect any possible leakages or failure in these systems.
Design of a Brine Injection Well
Source: Koplos, Kobelski, Karimjee, & Sham, 2006.
Testing of Spillage in Brine Injection Well in Torch, Ohio
The brine injection well in Torch, Ohio is properly designed to dispose brine into the injector zone. In the last few years, this injection has not been reported to have had any case of USDW. In fact, it employs some of the most stringent measures of ensuring that it meets all environmental standards. For example, while most brine injectors are checked once a year, this injector is checked four or five times a year.
This research will develop a brine detection system, which will have an alert system to notify relevant stakeholders of possible instances of brine spillage. While the general infrastructure of the facility appears safe, there is always a risk of spillage that may be occasioned by leakages in the facility’s pipes. Generally, brine is composed of organic waste, saline, heavy metals, and chemicals, which are corrosive. Accordingly, they may corrode sections of the tanks and pipes which could lead to leakages, which can, in turn, lead to environmental pollution and degradation (Nogues et al., 2010).
Sensor and Alert System
In order to investigate if there is a brine spill or a possible occurrence of a pill, a mass flow pressure sensor will be used to measure the pressure in variation in pressure of the pipe. Jung et al (2013) posits that pressure monitoring can reveal the location, onset, and volume of leakage. These sensors will measure the leakage rate of the pumps. While it is scientifically arguable that all items leak, nonetheless, the leakage rate should be maintained within the specified acceptable standards. Leakage simply means the permeation of liquid molecules or atoms through a plastic or metal shield (Sun, Nicot, &Zhang, 2013). As a result, leakage rate is calculated as the change in volume of a liquid over time. It is equated as follows:
Leakage (Leak Rate) = ∂V/∂T  [change in volume/ change in time]
Since water is the main concentrate in the brine and water pumps are mostly used in the system, a leakage rate of 4-6cc / min will be the allowed level.
Mass Flow Sensor
Source: TM Electronics, 2008
A mass flow sensor will be input in the middle of the system main injection pipes. Since injection of brine into the injection well requires a standard pressure, the sensor will automatically detect changes in this pressure. Noteworthy, changes in pressure beyond the standard threshold are an indication of an underlying leakage in the system (Chabora & Benson, 2006). Accordingly, any change in pressure beyond the specified threshold (4 – 6 cc/min) will be automatically sent to the brine injector facility’s control room. At the same time, the sensors will automatically switch the facility’s hazard lights to indicate that there is a potential leakage in the site. It is from the control room where a computer with the email address and contacts of the brine injector facility chief engineer, technicians, and emergency team that pre-written emails and messages will be sent to these individuals informing them of a possible leakage in the facility. Importantly, the hazard lights will immediately inform technicians who are near the facility to shut it down and investigate if there is a leakage. Through this method, brine spill will be prevented from occurring or be stopped before they cause severe contamination to the environment.
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