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‘This is the only thing like this on the planet’

Mobile water system gets test run in Brooke

April 21, 2013
By LINDA HARRIS - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

BEECH BOTTOM - A revolutionary water purification system is getting a test drive at Sheehan Pipeline's new Brooke County operations center.

North Carolina-based Work Well Hydration Systems sees the state-of-the-art mobile purification plant as a "proof of concept" demonstration for the oil and gas and mining industries.

"To my knowledge, this is the only thing like this on the planet," said Ed Wilcox, vice president of sales and Work Well's co-founder. "There's a company in Georgia that makes kiosks - the idea five years ago was to buy one, retrofit it, maybe customize it and then get it out on the jobsite, but they couldn't do it. It just wasn't reliable enough. The hurdle we had is that if Sheehan does not provide its workers with ice and water in the morning, they don't have to work. So come hell or high water, we have to have a reliable plant that produces a quality product using sanitary, safe methods. This does it, it does everything."

Article Photos

DEMONSTRATES CENTER’S CAPABILITIES — Ed Wilcox, vice president of sales for Work Well Hydrating Systems, demonstrates the capabilities of the company’s mobile purification center at Sheehan Pipeline’s Beech Bottom plant. - Linda Harris

The plant, packed into what is no bigger than a standard-sized trailer, is designed for remote applications: Itss a 6,000-gallon-per-day reverse osmosis system, feeding into a 10,000-pound-per-day ice maker. It can store 8,000 pounds of ice and is equipped with two shoots that can dispense ice in bulk, which requires a much smaller carbon footprint. There's also a bagger, so when everyone's out on the job site, we just turn it into bagging mode and it will dispense a heat-sealed, 7- to 10-pound bag of ice every six seconds.

He said he can do it with any water source.

"As long as there's no standing petroleum and my membranes don't get clogged, I can pull from just about any water source," he said. "We could be feeding from the Ohio River and I'd have the same quality of water here."

While the system isn't cheap, the alternative - trucking bagged ice and bottled water to remote work sites on a daily basis - can be even more pricey.

"Nobody can compete with this," Wilcox said. "It costs me virtually nothing to make ice and to purify water. In addition to reducing their waste, they've got what's essentially an unlimited water supply. We're speeding the process up, addressing sanitary issues and getting guys out on the job site quicker."

Since there are plenty of packaged ice suppliers in the area, he said Work Well won't be making a lot of money from the Beech Bottom operation. Its real value, he said, is that it's "proof of concept for us."

"It can go anywhere," he said. "Right now we're focusing on pipeline and oil and gas companies and mining, but it can be any remote locations where they have to ship in bottled water and bagged ice. ... We can put one of our plants on site, then take samples of the local water, have it analyzed and then build a custom RO (reverse osmosis) plant to address that water."

Wilcox said they tested a much smaller beta version of the process at an oil and gas worksite last summer in Triadelphia and then incorporated what they learned into the current model.

"This is a much bigger plant, it can handle 1,000 people and store 8,000 pounds of ice," he said. "The beta plant was much smaller and could only store 1,800 pounds. The reverse osmosis plant is the same, but for cosmetic reasons we changed things around - we put aerators on and blocked off things for dust control."

Scott Foy, Work Well's vice president of operations and manufacturing, also beefed up the bagger, which in the original version took 22 seconds to heat seal a bag of ice.

"Like I said, this one can heat seal in six seconds. It's much more reliable, much quicker," Wilcox said.

Down the road, he concedes there could be other, humanitarian applications. Companies mining in Africa, for instance, could put a mobile purification trailer on site, power it with a diesel generator and purify local water. Not only would the company have pure water for its workers and operations, but nearby villages could access the purified water and ice.

"We're just in the beginning with this," Wilcox said. "We have to connect with the pipeline and mining industries; once we're established there, we'll be able to branch out to other areas."

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