WaterFleet: Creating Drinking Water Where There Is No Drinking Water

Having clean, drinkable water is essential for everyone, no matter where they are. For some on-site workers on remote oil and gas drilling sites, this means transporting in large amounts of bottled water. The result is too much plastic waste from the bottles and air pollution from the extra traffic. WaterFleet provides an alternative solution.


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Introduction

Welcome to Third Angle, where you find us staying hydrated, without a plastic water bottle in sight.

Picture this: you’re in the midday heat on a drilling site in a remote part of the US, and it’s time for a water break. Turning on a tap and expecting clean, drinkable water is something we all rely on. But for many of these remote sites, giving workers access to potable, or drinking, water can involve transporting large amounts of bottled water. That’s a lot of trucks on the road – and a lot of plastic waste. WaterFleet, based in Texas, have come up with a solution, turning any groundwater supply into perfectly clean drinking water. A mobile unit connects to an existing well or water storage unit and processes the water whilst continually monitoring the quality to ensure it’s safe. They can even treat domestic wastewater, processing it to a reusable standard that can be used for irrigation, dust suppression, or other on-site applications.

About WaterFleet

The company mission statement is displayed proudly on the wall: “We are a solutions-based company of innovators, dedicated to the belief that clean, safe water is a basic human right – even in the most challenging situations.” Director of Business Intelligence David Myers says, “That wasn’t one person saying this is what we do. This was all of our ideas together. We built that as a company. When you first get onboarded here, and our new hire classes come right through here, it’s the first thing they see when they walk in. It’s a powerful statement and our core mission. All of our solutions and technologies are built around that.”

How WaterFleet started

There was a unique problem going on in the energy space in Texas. WaterFleet CEO, Alan Pyle, was at a high school football game chatting to a friend. The friend was complaining that he had 20-30 people living on a camp in the middle of nowhere and they were having to haul in non-potable water from over 100 miles away. “That non-potable water is then being used by the people on the site,” he said. “They’re living there, away from their families. They’re showering in it, they’re brushing their teeth with it, they’re using it for coffee, and their skin’s itching. It’s nasty water. It’s not potable water.” Alan scratched his head and said, “I think we can design something to help you guys.” Alan got a piece of paper, and started designing a water rig. He said, “If it works, you guys pay for it. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it.” They went out there and rigged it up themselves, rented a three-quarter tonne diesel truck, hauled it out to South Texas, and set it up.

What happened next

In short, it dramatically changed the lives of people living on the site. Suddenly, they had verified potable water, which is an incredible thing to think about in the middle of nowhere. They got some money together, built another one, built another one, and built another one. Now there’s over 150 of them. And they’re growing and changing. They’re getting bigger. They’re changing designs, different integrations, different solutions.

What about wastewater?

That’s where the Reclaimer rig comes in. The Reclaimer rig takes wastewater and makes it reusable for dust suppression, irrigation, whatever it may be. So not only have you eliminated the hauling in of water, but all the hauling out of wastewater. “It’s a pretty great impact for the people living on site, their quality of life is improved, their health and safety is improved,” says David. “The communities in which we operate are improving – no big heavy trucks coming in twice a day. The environmental wins are huge. As far as our water stewardship goes, it’s a huge deal. And it’s how it should be. We’ve raised the status quo out there. And people don’t really tolerate hauling in non-potable water. It’s just it’s not the way to do things anymore. It’s dangerous. And it’s not the right thing to do.”

How do the rigs work in the middle of nowhere?

The rigs contain a lot of technology, but also a lot of automation. Sensors, flow meters, pressure sensors, tank level sensors, and injection pumps, all have been intentionally designed. The highly automated trailer can protect itself from water quality getting out of parameters that would make it not potable. Not only this, but it can be monitored remotely. These systems can run for days and days without anybody needing to check on them.

How does WaterFleet know the water is potable?

Because they’re providing drinking water and wastewater services in remote areas, there’s a big need to verify that and to have a third-party lab verify the quality of water and the wastewater. They have an internal team that does the testing, and they also send samples to a third-party lab to confirm the findings. “You can hold a Reclaimer sample to the light, and you can see right through it. I mean, it’s beautiful. And every sample looks like that,” says David. “That’s the result of a lot of R&D, product development, improvement, having our field guys really learn their craft, and taking pride in it. I used to help in the lab, and there are way smarter people in here these days than when I was in here. So it’s been neat to see the evolution.”

When disaster strikes

“We started seeing a need for these displaced communities during disasters,” says David. “Hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, especially during Harvey, that’s what really started at all, all the way to firefighters and the US Forest Service.” A whole town because a hurricane is coming, and the community gets displaced. After the hurricane comes through, that town’s infrastructure is usually decimated. The wastewater treatment plants, or water treatment plants can’t operate. They’ve lost power, their pumping infrastructure is down. Also, you have people moving in to help repair the town and big disaster response camps that come in, temporary camps set up to provide the essential services to get the city or the town back on its feet. “Well, it makes sense to put in a water rig. We can take that compromised water source and treat it, making it potable water for the kitchen, for the people living on those sites to shower in at the end of a long day of hard work.”

What makes it worthwhile

After Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida in 2022, a phone call came in from a woman living in the area. “I just want to thank you guys,” she said, her voice getting shaky. “I saw what you guys did for our community, and what you’re doing for the people that are supporting the rebuild of our community, and I just want to say thank you.” “That’s the good stuff,” says David, smiling. “I’m proud of everything we do, but when you can impact somebody enough that they call to thank you for what you’re doing, especially halfway across the country? Man, that’s incredible. That keeps all of us ticking.”

The command center

The Bridge is WaterFleet’s 24/7 remote operations and dispatch command center. It has two teams. One is for the dispatch and logistics of people and equipment. The other team is the remote operations team, solely dedicated to the remote operation of the mobile water and wastewater treatment technology. “Anything you can control in there, we can do remotely for all of our assets across the country,” explains David. “What you’re seeing across the other six screens is what we call Sonar. Sonar is a proprietary technology we built in-house that monitors the systems for us in real time and lets us know anything that’s going out of parameters, any alarm setpoint, all of that – we can see it all for all of our assets 24/7 on the screen. And all this data is being stored in a data warehouse every couple of seconds, so we can have the data to support what we say we do.”

The bigger picture

“WaterFleet is passionate about the environmental benefit of our products as well as the health and wellbeing and quality of life of our end user,” says David. “That guides what we do, how we do it, and how we support it. Everything we’re doing is inherently plugged into that. It’s this thing not that we take for granted, but it’s just this thread that’s woven between all of our support staff and all of our technology, that what we do is positive for the environment – you’re getting rid of plastic single-use water bottles, you’re being a good steward of the local water supply, being able to reuse wastewater – a stream that wouldn’t have been there in the first place. It’s nice to talk about it and be reminded of that, especially during challenging days. We’re doing something good out there. We’re challenging the status quo, and hopefully other people will come to meet us there. Because we’re going to do it one way or another.”

How the technology works

WaterFleet is really impacting people for good by supplying clean, safe water in the most challenging situations. To do that, they need to minimize unplanned downtime and be confident that all assets are operating correctly. This is where ServiceMax, PTC’s asset-centric Field Service Management Solution, comes into play. ServiceMax is an asset-centric field service management solution that allows our customers to leverage a comprehensive set of cloud-native tools and enable customer stakeholders to proactively manage, maintain, and service critical assets throughout their lifecycle. While ServiceMax is designed to help service customers keep an eye on their costs, it also helps to drive value and add value to service processes. We have about 350 customers using 300 million assets, from medical devices and industrial manufacturing to energy, oil, and gas. That’s about one work order every second.

How ServiceMax works

WaterFleet’s water and Reclaimer rigs are brought to sites where there’s no access to clean water, primarily either due to the remoteness of the location itself or to support in the case of events triggered by natural disasters. Maintenance on these rigs needs to be done on time and to exacting standards to ensure that they’re operational when needed. The ServiceMax asset management capability allows WaterFleet to know where their rigs are deployed and what maintenance needs to be performed on those rigs so they continue to deliver clean water without interruptions. The service planners use the data in ServiceMax to ensure that they have a clear line of sight to the right technicians with the right skills – and the right parts – to ensure that scheduled maintenance is completed on time. And even more importantly, emergency repairs can be completed as quickly as possible to guarantee clean and safe water even in the most challenging of situations.

Credits

Huge thanks to David Meyers for showing us around the Waterfleet headquarters in Texas

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This is an 18Sixty production for PTC. Executive producer is Jacqui Cook. Recording by Eva Ruth. Sound design and editing by Clarissa Maycock. And music by Rowan Bishop.

Episode guests

David Meyers, Director of Business Intelligence at WaterFleet

More About WaterFleet

Sara Cerruti, Customer Transformation VP at PTC

More About ServiceMax