Oka’ Sustainability conference showcases mobile technology to remediate water produced in drilling operations

Editor’s Note: I was invited by my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to attend the recent Oka’ Sustainability conference at East Central University in Ada, where the focus was on ways to preserve and sustain Oklahoma’s water resources for future generations.  I wrote this report on the experience.

ADA – Billions of barrels of salty, grimy water are produced by the nation’s oil and gas drilling operations annually, with few alternatives for its disposal.

The water is so polluted that it can’t be used again for drilling operations and has no place to go except deep into the earth. That water must be hauled long distances to disposal wells and more fresh water imported for operations.

“What’s happening with advances in drilling technology, they are drilling deeper wells and longer laterals,” said Joe Haligowski, sales director for Filtra-Systems LLC, a company owned by Chickasaw Nation Industries. “That’s producing more oil, but it’s also producing more water.”

The AQWATEC research center at the Colorado School of Mines reports that 21 billion barrels of water are produced annually by U.S. drilling operations.

Gov. Bill Anoatubby with the Chickasaw Nation (center) poses with reps from tribal owned Filtra Systems, showcasing technology to remediate water produced from oil & gas wells.

Enter mobile technology developed by Filtra-Systems to meet that challenge. The Chickasaw-owned company showcased its new SCOUT mobile water recycling system at the recent Oka’ Institute Sustainability Conference at East Central University.

The SCOUT technology cleans polluted water as close to the drilling operation as possible so it can be reused in future operations instead of flushed into disposal wells.

“Oka’” is the Chickasaw word for water, and the Oka’ Institute was created in 2016 with support from the Chickasaw Nation, the Ada Jobs Foundation and the City of Ada with seed money from the Sciences and Natural Resources Foundation. Former state Sen. Susan Paddack is the institute’s executive director.

The Oka’ Institute sponsors the annual Sustainability Conference to focus on ways to protect Oklahoma’s water resources for future generations.

That’s where Filtra-Systems and its SCOUT technology fit the agenda.

“The advantage of reusing water as much as possible provides a cost benefit not only to the oil company but also a benefit to sustainability,” Haligowski said. “We believe that’s important, but it’s also good business.”

The October 2-3 conference attracted over 200 people, from five states as well as international participants, from diverse industries for which water sustainability is critical. The theme of this year’s conference was Quality Water Now and in the Future.

“The whole purpose of this conference is to bring people together who are in agriculture, people who are in oil and gas, utilities, people who are in academic positions in the state, to have this conversation about how we are going to ensure we have water resources forever more,” Paddack said.

Water sustainability is more than just preserving water to sustain future generations, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a keynote address at the conference.

“Investment in water sustainability is an investment in both our environment and our economy,” Anoatubby said. “Investing in water sustainability builds businesses, safeguards communities, protects the environment and strengthens durable economic health.”

“The whole purpose of this conference is to bring people together who are in agriculture, people who are in oil and gas, utilities, people who are in academic positions in the state, to have this conversation about how we are going to ensure we have water resources forever more.” — Susan Paddack

How is sustainability good for business?

For starters, it could be jobs. The SCOUT mobile water recycling system is largely manufactured in Marietta, where Filtra-Systems employs about 70 people in the southern Oklahoma community.

Then there is Jimmy Emmons, a farmer from Leedey in far western Oklahoma. Emmons adopted no-till farming practices in 1995, then adopted crop rotations, cover crops and planned grazing management to decrease soil erosion and increase water infiltration of the soil.

“I’m here at the Oka’ Institute conference to share a little bit about soil health and why we should be worried about how we farm,” Emmons said. “My message is for us to think about what we are doing because as a nation we’ve eroded half our top soil, and within that is organic matter that has water holding capacity of our soil. Soil health is the key to helping have more water in the water cycle.”

Instead of planting only wheat and cotton on his 2,000 acres, Emmons now rotates through eight different crops and saves thousands of dollars a year on fuel costs by not plowing his fields. The topsoil doesn’t blow away and the ground holds more water.

“We keep something living and growing, which really mimics Mother Nature and the native prairie system,” he said.

In 2017, Emmons was the first Oklahoman to receive the Leopold Conservation Award, which recognizes achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources.

A third generation farmer on his Emmons Farms property, Emmons serves as president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and is vice president of the not-for-profit educational organization known as No-Till on the Plains.

“The Oka’ Institute conference here is so important to Oklahoma because they are trying to bring forth how important water is, how we take care of it and how we manage it,” Emmons said. “We very seldom look at that.”

A visit to OKC’s Apple Store, but the Promised Land still not open


Made a trip to the Apple store in Penn Square Mall today, and all I got was this lousy photo of a sign on the dark storefront promising me a brand new store.

Problem is the store has been closed for remodeling and expansion since April. That’s like six months and counting on a remodel.

So, I headed upstairs to visit the temporary location that sort of matches the look and feel of the original Apple location.

Compared with the times I’ve visited Penn Square in the past, the mall was a virtual ghost town today. Few people were out and about, and you could almost hear an echo as you walked down the mall.

That didn’t prepare me for the size of the crowd milling about the Apple store. I should have known.

Apple’s retail location in Penn Square is a virtual tourist attraction, with big crowds no matter the day of the week. Today was no exception with a store full of shoppers, or at least tire kickers like me.

I asked an Apple Genius – well, he had a beard, tattoos and wore a blue Apple T-shirt – when the new/old location would open. He said there was no specific date set, although he said that opening by the even busier Christmas shopping season would be nice.

Here’s a photo of the store at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon as I entered.


Breakfast material

I had the pleasure of attending the annual Oklahoma Health Center Breakfast this morning along with about 1,000 of my closest friends as guest of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

health-center-programThis year, the breakfast featured a panel discussion by three academic research scientists and a fourth who is both a scientist and also a very successful Oklahoma City entrepreneur. Each of them made some interesting points that stayed with me after I left the event.

So, what did they say? Each was responding to questions by discussion leader David Harlow of BancFirst Oklahoma City. Here’s what I took from the event:

Scientists can’t have a big fear of failure.

“Basic scientific research is really high-risk. You think you understand something, propose a hypothesis, test it and find out you are right, but you really don’t learn anything. When you really learn something is when you find out you are wrong and you try to figure out why you were wrong. That type of research can really go on only in an academic institution because in business you have to make a profit or you are not there.”
— Doris Benbrook, Ph.D., professor and co-director for Cancer Prevention and Drug Development and the Gynecologic Cancer Program at OU’s Stephenson Cancer Center

Widespread antibiotic use in livestock may contribute to the problem of drug resistant bacteria

“Maybe with an antibiotic that came out in the 1960s or 1970s, you might have 10 or 15 years before organisms get resistant. But now something comes out and within 2 or 3 years we find there’s resistance to these new drugs. One of the contributing factors could be that we are using the same drugs in livestock as well as in humans. So it’s an indiscriminate, inappropriate use that maybe led to this issue. The other problem is that most antibiotics that come on the market are really not new. They are a tweaking or change in an antibiotic that’s already been present, so resistance already exists to these antibiotics.” 
–Anne Pereira, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate College at the OU Health Sciences Center, professor and associate dean, Research College of Pharmacy at OU. She is also co-founder and chief scientific officer of Oklahoma City-based Biolytx Pharmaceutical Co.

 The concept of an “Innovation District” on the Oklahoma Health Center campus will promote collaboration and connectivity throughout the city.

“The whole idea behind innovation is collaboration, cooperation and connectivity.   I think in the future, in order to be competitive we have to collaborate. Historically, there was a segregation. In order for us to win, we all have to win. The idea in the Innovation District is… you have an area that is meant to be a flow of information in and out of. The idea is through innovation you have a place that you can work, you can play together… 

“The GE Global Research Center just opened, they are here. It’s not serendipitous. They could have picked any city in the United States — in the world — and they chose Oklahoma City … There are a lot of exciting things happening, and that is because of the connectivity, the collaboration.”
–Thomas Kupiec, Ph.D, CEO and President of ARL Bio Pharma, DNA Solutions and the Kupiec Group

 A welcoming, collegial atmosphere at Dean McGee Eye Institute was a big factor in recruiting a top scientist to Oklahoma City.

 “I was here for two days, and every 20 minutes I would talk to people from door to door. They gave me no time in between. At the end of those two days I realized I wasn’t even a little bit tired  … I interviewed with other university departments and I never got that sense of collegiality, friendship. Then I met Dr. (Greg) Skuta and Dr. (Gene) Anderson and they made it really, really easy. Greg is one of the reasons I am here. He was too approachable, too friendly for a chairman.”
–Dimitrios Karamichos, Ph.D., Dean McGee Eye Institute, assistant professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Cell Biology faculty member, Oklahoma Center for Neuroscience


Paul McCartney knows just how OKC feels

When Kevin Durant told OKC two weeks ago “It’s not you, it’s me” and moved in with the Golden State Warriors, there was something familiar about the scenario. It was the type of relationship-gone-bad about which movies are made and songs are written. One person left stunned and hurt as their lover announces out of the blue that he or she is moving on to a new partner.

kd pixThen I was driving down the road Saturday when the Beatles’ “I’m Looking Through You” came on the radio. It hit me. Paul McCartney’s bitter lyrics about the partner who jilted him was a perfect description of how thousands of OKC fans felt watching @KDTrey35 being introduced as a Warrior. Well, it hit me that way, anyway.

Here is a sampling of the lyrics written 50 years ago. They perfectly describe the KD-OKC breakup:

I’m looking through you,
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you,
What did I know?
You don’t look different, but you have changed.
I’m looking through you, you’re not the same.

Your lips are moving,
I cannot hear.
Your voice is soothing,
But the words aren’t clear.
You don’t sound different,
I’ve learned the game.
I’m looking through you,
You’re not the same.

Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.

You’re thinking of me,
The same old way.
You were above me,
But not today.
The only difference is you’re down there.
I’m looking through you,
And you’re nowhere.

Why, tell me why did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.

I’m looking through you, 
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you,
What did I know?
You don’t look different,
But you have changed.
I’m looking through you,
You’re not the same!

Yep, KD. You don’t look different. But you have changed.

There’s a novel in here somewhere

OK, about three or four years ago I began a novel. I’ve written one chapter. It’s sort of an action-adventure-drama-mystery. I’m probably going to scrap it and pursue something different. But I thought I might post the chapter here to see if I can get any feedback. I still haven’t made up my mind, but check back in a day or two and see it is posted.