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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Getting Started in Purifying Produced Saltwater, the Overlooked Resource in Resource Plays

A solution to drought and water scarcity is sitting before our eyes in much of the U.S., but most people have no idea that it exists. Those who do have no idea that the puzzle pieces necessary to make it happen are right here, right now. They just have not been put together yet.  But, they can be, and the benefits to people, the environment, the economy, and sustainable life in general could be staggering.

The answer is produced saltwater which is coproduced with oil and gas, as well as in mining operations.

Many people outside the oil and gas industry are unaware that great volumes of salty, briny, mineral-rich (although some are undesirable minerals) water are coproduced with gas and oil. In fact, in many old fields, the percentage of water vs. oil and gas is very high, and can be as high as 1000 barrels (40 gallons) of produced water for every 100 mcf (thousand cubic feet) of natural gas and 10 barrels of oil.  The water is sometimes reinjected into the formation to provide pressure to enhance the recovery of hydrocarbons, but most often, the oil and gas are separated, and then the saltwater is trucked or transported via pipeline to injection wells that are licensed as Class II disposal wells. These wells may take as much as 20,000 bbls per day. Not only are they expensive to use and to operate (lots of chemicals are needed and equipment to deal with all the corrosion, scale, and other issues), they have also been blamed for generating earthquakes. Needless to say, safety and public health are the first concerns, so any solution will require a great deal of testing and quality assurance. 

Large sources of coproduced water include traditional mature fields such as the Permian Basin and in the Sooner Trend (Mississippian lime), but also in the new unconventional plays, such as in the Mississippian Lime (and chat) in Kansas and Oklahoma and in the shale plays throughout the world, with extreme development now taking place in the U.S.  For a compilation of articles on the plays, please visit: (

Disposing of produced saltwater is expensive and an ongoing cost to producers. There is no escaping it. For that reason, the small extra steps required to purify rather than dispose of the water represent an incremental cost, which could be more than offset by the revenues generated by water sales. There are other benefits, but educating the public will be necessary. For that reason, companies and communities along with entrepreneurs who are a part of the team, should start as quickly as possible to develop MOOCs (massive open online courses) and mini-MOOCs to help people learn about the concept, the elements, the skills needed, and the opportunities.

Further, the need by some communities for water, and the market for water could make producing and purifying co-produced saltwater viable on its own.

Desalination of seawater and brines has long been a necessity in arid parts of the world, where drinking water is scarce or unavailable. It is generally viewed as uneconomic or too capital-intensive for many communities in the U.S.

Purification of produced coproduced water is not completely the same as desalinization of sea water because there are additional minerals in the produced water (the reservoir fluids each reservoir have unique compositions), and it is not cheap. However, companies that are now paying to transport, chemically treat, and inject produced brines would not pay much more to take the extra step and purify to graywater or potable levels. 

With drought, coupled with the depletion of aquifers in the Plains and western U.S., new approaches to water must be sought. The plan to purify produced saltwater to the point of graywater or agricultural use or all the way to potable is economically viable for some communities right now if the pieces are put into place.

Here are the puzzle pieces:

Large-scale produced water purification systems:

Effective and efficient purification process.

Options include

Reverse osmosis / membrane ultrafiltration (primarily with dry gas production)

Distillation (will require using produced gas, solar, and possible geothermal to minimize energy costs -- Fountain Quail has a freshwater system called NOMAD which is currently in the Barnett (in Texas) and also is setting up in West Texas, in the Permian Wolfcamp play.  Their mobile ROVER system creates clean saltwater.)

 Combination process (primarily with reservoirs that produce oil as well as gas - Hydrozonix is currently using its multi-stage process to treat and remove contaminants in order to recycle and reuse the water in drilling, stimulation, or enhanced oil recovery).

Water gathering system (similar to that of gas gathering systems) to cost-effectively bring the produced water from several wells or units to a single, high-volume treatment facility, with capacity of around 100,000 bbls per day. Companies such as Anterra Energy and Apache / Encana (Debolt water treatment plant) are running water treatment operations that are allowing companies to use the water for recycling and for hydraulic fracturing and injection wells in EOR operations. There are initiatives to support this, which include the Texas Water Recycling Association (TWRA).  One of the positive developments is that the TWRA members will be able to share recycling facilities. 

For recharge of the riparian system where the water will go to reservoirs and other holding water impoundments for agricultural purposes, it will be necessary to construct series of viaducts into the stream system so that the produced water will flow to existing reservoirs. Discharge could average 100,00 bbls per day. The viaducts could incorporate small, efficient hydroelectric generators so that power could be generated as the water flows downstream. 

Contracts and agreements with the communities to purchase the water and to also commit to financing the infrastructure (they may wish to finance it via municipal bonds).

Amended and modified oil and gas leases would be developed to pay the mineral owner a royalty on sales of coproduced connate water. Because the costs of purification and transportation are high, and the royalty would of necessity be something in the 2 – 3 percent range.

A plan for disposing of the super-concentrated brines that are left after the process must be in place.

On-site continuous water quality testing, with remote data acquisition and monitoring, with cloud-based data acquisition, archiving, processing, retrieval.

Initial data sources for identifying, leasing, purchasing existing production and adapting into the new produced water / water purification systems.

Byproducts could sold as industrial minerals or created into new products.

Halite building bricks: coat the salt residual with impermeable coating, and create salt bricks for building purposes (could be used to create soundproofing, etc.)

--Industrial minerals: halite, ferric chloride, magnesium oxide, calcium chloride

--Data management system for maintaining production records, along with water quality

--MOOCs (massive open online courses) and mini-MOOCs to help people learn about the concept, the elements, the skills needed, and the opportunities

--Data management system for leases, contracts, permits, filings, reports; much should be automated with calendar events to flag and alert due dates for key filings and permits

--Cloud-based computing for logistics, data management, tracking, quality assurance, supply chain management

For small-scale systems for single wells, that produce less than 1,000 bbls of water per day:

--Mobile purification units, ideally distillation
--Permits and permissions for drinking water production and bottling facility

--Licensed and approved continuous testing of water

--On-site or near-site bottling of water

--3D printers for customized bottles / shapes for value-add uses

--Advertising / marketing of new ultra-pure water from distillation

--Contracts for distribution

--MOOCs (massive open online courses) and mini-MOOCs to help people learn about the concept, the elements, the skills needed, and the opportunities

--Cloud-based computing for logistics, data management, tracking, quality assurance, supply chain management

Conclusion and Future Steps

The main impediments to purifying and re-using connate water coproduced with oil and gas involve cost, environmental and drinking water regulations, and public perception.

These can be overcome with education coupled with extreme need due to drought. The benefits are tremendous, and include revitalized communities with sufficient water for sustainable human and animal life, along with the resurgence of industries requiring large volumes of water, which include agriculture, power generation, and manufacturing.

The key now is to start to put the puzzle pieces together and to start to create viable projects and plans.

We need to conduct clear-eyed, open, and honest gap analyses to see just how close we really are, and where and when we can most feasibly close the gaps.

The efforts can start on a well-by-well micro scale, thanks to 3D printing, cloud-based computing (for logistics, data management, supply chain, project management, etc.), so is ideal for entrepreneurs. 

For more information and initial plans, please contact Susan Nash as 

-- Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.
Norman, Oklahoma 
skype: beyondutopia 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Interview with Sameer Bhatia, Innovators in E-Learning Series

Thanks to improvements in access and bandwidth management, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are rapidly gaining in popularity. Two different types of MOOCs have emerged: the first, the x-MOOC, emphasizes content mastery and incorporates self-grading activities; the second, the c-MOOC, emphasizes learning through collaboration and incorporates connectivist learning theory. The x-MOOCs are making learning and assessment an automated, 24-7 endeavor. The big challenge for organizations that wish to get involved, however is finding a platform that is robust and flexible enough to handle huge volumes and highly variable content. One company that has dedicated itself to overcoming that problem is ProProfs, a popular, easy-to-use provider of tools that allow the easy construction and deployment of quizzes, courses, tests, and surveys, all of which are ideal for creating MOOCs. Welcome to an interview with Sameer Bhatia, visionary and founder of

1.  What is your name and your relationship to e-learning?

I am Sameer Bhatia, founder of, an online learning community which provides comprehensive tools for building, testing and applying knowledge.

Over the years, I have worked with many trainers and educators, which has helped us in developing market leading elearning tools such as our popular quiz software and an all-in-one online learning management system (LMS) that are geared towards solving the core issues that teachers and trainers face while creating online courses and assessments.

I feel the biggest contribution to elearning that ProProfs has made so far is in making online education accessible and affordable to people from all walks of life. We have not only made an enterprise level LMS, which would traditionally cost tens of thousands of dollars, available at a fraction of the price but also taken this a step further with our free offering of public courses. Our products are free when you share content such as courses or quizzes with the world. This has made us one of the largest MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platforms with hundreds of thousands of free quizzes, tests and courses. I have received many emails from educators and trainers about how the free courses and quizzes have saved them hours of time and effort.

2.  What are some of the future directions and potentials of MOOCs, in your opinion?

Where a university class could only accommodate a maximum of few hundred students, MOOCs can help educators and trainers reach out to millions of learners. The potential of MOOCs as a platform through which education and training can be created and disseminated instantly to a vast population is one worth investing in and exploiting.

In the coming years, we could see more universities using MOOCs as the primary mode of creating and disseminating learning. However, currently there are a limited number of courses on a few topics that MOOC platforms are offering. The potential of MOOCs will be fully realized when open online courses are available on multiple disciplines and topics. I feel the ability of anyone to freely build and share knowledge will be a motivational factor for people to use MOOCs as the primary platform for creating and disseminating learning.

Such a cohesive system would mean the crumbling of economic and geographic barriers, since anybody from any part of the world would be able to freely access education and learning.

3.  Why might an organization want to host a MOOC, and how can they benefit?

Firstly, irrespective of the industry an organization belongs to, MOOCs can help it establish itself as a thought leader in its field. A company can achieve this by creating a knowledge resource consisting of open online courses which answer the questions of their audience. For example, a company manufacturing fire fighting equipments can create open courses on fire safety; an automobile company can create a certification course on driving motor vehicles, so on and so forth. The possibilities are limitless. By providing solutions to the questions of potential customers, a company can establish itself as a brand and thought leader.

Secondly, as it is said that the best way to learn is to teach, organizations can quickly collect aggregate learner statistics from their courses and learn about what exactly are the knowledge gaps. For instance, when you create a course using ProProfs, you get advanced reports and aggregate statistics based on data across all attempts to a particular course. These reports help instructors learn and understand what questions are commonly wrong, difficulty level of each question, what information the course is not addressed well and so on. All of this can be used to make improvements to the course and to identify and bridge knowledge gaps.

4.  What are some of the "must have" elements in a MOOC?  Why are some organizations nervous about offering a MOOC?  What are some of the barriers that must be overcome, and why might it be difficult for an organization to do it on their own? 

Creating an online course is not enough. For MOCCs to be really successful as an alternative learning model there must be comprehensive course statistics such as detailed course and assessment reports as well as learner feedback reports accompanying an online course.

Course and assessment reports are essentials parts of an online course as they help instructors judge whether learners have actually understood the course. For instance, ProProfs test making software, provides users with detailed assessment reports such as the total attempts made on the quiz, the average time taken to complete the quiz, the average percentage score and the difficulty level of each question in the quiz. The statistics are presented in a clear and concise manner, which help instructors understand how each learner performed in a given test as well as identify the areas where knowledge gaps may exist so that they can revise their teaching and training materials to improve learners’ performance.

Likewise, gathering learners’ feedback at the start, middle or end of a course helps in judging the relevance and efficaciousness of a course. Regular learner feedback surveys drive up instructor-learner engagement, which is crucial for the success of online courses.

One of the reasons why business organizations are wary of online courses is regarding cost and infrastructure requirement to support large batches of learners. Expenses related to maintenance, data back-up, software hosting and administration are some of the difficulties that organizations looking to create online courses on their own face. They can avoid these issues and simply put their focus on course creation by adopting SAAS and other third party solutions that effectively solve this problem. We get a lot of questions and concerns about this as well. So we created a Trust page that gives people an insight into our infrastructure that scales to serve million of users each month.

As for educational institutions, the question seems to be whether open online courses can compensate for actual classroom experience. However, there are many tools such as feedback surveys, discussion forums, crowd-sourcing etc which help in bridging the virtual divide and driving up instructor and learner engagement.

5.  What are some of ProProfs products, and how are they used within a MOOC?

One of our popular products is our online training software, which allows users to create a course and deliver it to their learners. It is an all-in-one software, which comes bundles with our other products and provides a complete e-learning solution to companies who want to create online training program or educational institutions looking to create academic coursework.

We also offer a powerful online testing tool called ProProfs Quiz Maker. Our testing tool provides comprehensive features such as the ability to create different types of tests such as matching, checkboxes, true or false, multiple choice and even a timed test - which helps in preventing cheating in online tests. The results of the assessments are fully downloadable and instructors can share them with their learners as well as other stakeholders.

Another import elearning tool would be our learner feedback tool. Our survey software allows users to create course evaluation surveys and learner feedback surveys, making their online courses much more effective in enhancing the learning process.

Besides these online tools, we also offer poll maker and learning aids such as flashcards which make the online courses more engaging and effective.

ProProfs offers hundreds of public online courses. The course categories cover a range of topics such as business, computer science, education and many more. Since our training software is an integrated product, which includes all our other products it is the most ideal for being used within a MOOC. Our Quiz software, is one of the largest online quiz libraries and there are millions of free quizzes on various topics. Another software very popular with learners is our Flashcards Maker, which also consists of millions of flashcards, free and accessible for all. Our Survey Software is a relatively new product but we already have a large bank of surveys which are free for our users to share and reuse.

6.  How is ProProfs helping organizations develop and host MOOCs?

ProProfs Training Software is used by many organizations to create open online courses. One of the primary reasons why organizations prefer using our software is because we allow them to completely focus on course creation, while we handle the course hosting, delivery, data-backup, administration and maintenance. The fact that organizations do not have to download or learn any software coupled with the benefit of not having to hire an IT team to maintain and administer the software, encourages organizations as well as individuals to create and share online courses through our platform.

Since open online courses are taken by thousands of learners at a time, the load spikes are massive and we conduct regular system maintenance so that we maintain a robust system uptime and learners don’t have to face any disruptions. We keep our system maintenance records completely transparent and that is why many organizations believe and trust in us.
We are different from other MOOC platforms because we also provide our customers the option to go fully private and even create paid courses - a great revenue model for teachers who wish to create and sell online courses. This makes us the most flexible platform. So you can start off by making an open course, create a private and secure course/training for the company you work at, and another one where you charge users across the web to take the course ....the flexibility is amazing.

Organizations also do not feel locked in, as we give them complete and absolute ownership of the courses they create with us. They can fully brand, customize and embed their courses onto their website or blog as well as integrate the payment gateway with their site and use ProProfs only for the delivery of the courses.

7.  Do you see any new directions arising for MOOCs and their potential to help organizations achieve their missions? 

The current trend is in making the online courses more efficacious by providing accreditation, where learners at the end of an online course get a degree or a completion certificate, which they can use to further their education or career. Once this is fully realized, MOOCs will become all pervasive. In this respect, we have a certification program already set up, where organizations can create custom course completion certificates using their logos, colors and signatures and award it to deserving candidates.

I believe the new directions will be in the adoption of MOOCs by companies and people from different walks of life as opposed to just academic education - wherein universities have so far been the early adopters.

8. Any final thoughts?

We have already witnessed the potential of MOOCs in making quality education accessible to the public. Premier educational institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and many others have effectively used MOOC to reach out to a global learner base.

However, we believe that not just premier institutions but anybody who is willing to share his/her knowledge should be able to have access to the technological resources to do so. The driving force behind ProProfs being free for open courses has been our strong belief that anybody can and should teach. Everyday people from all walks of life create hundreds of courses, on all kinds of subjects, using our learning management system. Our public courses range from simple fire safety courses to complex Java programming language courses. Also, people learn in different ways, not only through courses but tests and quizzes as well. We’ve realised this because we get many emails from our users telling us about how the quizzes in our site helped them do well in their tests.  A case in point are the DMV quizzes, which are taken by thousands of our users everyday and have helped many pass their driving tests with flying colors.

This I feel should be the future of MOOCs where education and learning is not limited to predefined notions of traditional academic courses but is a healthy mix of different types of knowledge resources on a vast array of subjects and interests.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Interview with Harman Singh, WizIQ: Innovators in E-Learning Series

WizIQ has developed a solution that brings together synchronous web conferencing in a “live classroom” skin, with built-in utilities and tool sets that provide a robust learning experience, with assessment as well as additional course content. Instead of just two streaming windows, there can be up to 6 live video streams. Chat, whiteboard, breakout sessions, and on-the-fly uploading of presentation material are also included. In addition, it contains course management elements that assist with administration, such as creating multiple teacher accounts.  

WizIQ also allows course developers to create courses that contain archived webinars. Students can sign up through WizIQ's courses portal and access the course content, assessment, and generate a certificate the reflects performance on a final assessment. 

So, individuals or institutions that would like to create a "mini-MOOC" can do so fairly easily with WizIQ. In addition to video instruction in languages and computer programming, there are also intriguing titles such as Vedic Math and MatLab for Financial Engineering (value priced at $5! the regular price is $250).  

WizIQ is available through subscription, and will also be available for free with Moodle 2.4. 

Welcome to an interview with Harman Singh, CEO and the visionary behind WizIQ.

What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
Our name is WizIQ and we have an E-learning platform that connects educators and students through its WizIQ Virtual Classroom technology. WizIQ’s vision is to enable anyone to teach or learn anytime and anyplace.

What is WizIQ?  What is its function?
WizIQ is an online education platform that offers SaaS based virtual classroom software for teachers, trainers, colleges and universities, high schools, and training and tutoring centres around the world.

WizIQ has over 200,000 teachers and 2.5 million learners using the platform in more than 100 countries around the world.

WizIQ provides tools for teachers to deliver online education in online or blended learning formats, connect with students, share educational content, deliver live online classes and facilitate highly engaging learning experiences. WizIQ works on PCs, iPad and Android tablets; and can be customized for languages such as Arabic and Hebrew (right to left) and other 12 languages.

Who can benefit from WizIQ?
Teachers, trainers, colleges and universities, high schools, and training and tutoring centres around the world can benefit from WizIQ.

WizIQ allows teachers to conduct live online classes with unlimited numbers of students. Independent educators can charge any price they choose for classes or online tutoring while WizIQ handles payment processing. Organizations and schools can create distance education programs, again charging if they wish or integrating the programs into existing educational offerings. Using WizIQ virtual classroom, teachers can collaborate with remote students  - Web camera sharing, VoIP audio communications, and text chat, all in a single window share any application on students’ computer in real time. And students can be invited and join impromptu classes literally in seconds, from anywhere.

Interactive training sessions can be held with unlimited attendees – right from your desk. Save time and travel costs by moving your training program online.

On WizIQ, students can learn anytime, anywhere at a pace that is comfortable to them. WizIQ offers learning in new, engaging, unprecedented ways for students regardless of time, location, or socioeconomic status.

Examples of WizIQ in action:

1. Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7 integrates WizIQ Virtual Classroom

Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7, one of the 29 educational agencies in the state of Pennsylvania, serves seventeen school districts. The agency was looking to provide a flexible environment where a student could still be in a brick-and-mortar school and have an option to take advanced online courses offered in other district schools.

With the WizIQ’s 17 installations of Moodle Course Management System, teachers were able connect with students in real-time and teach classes just as they would in the traditional classroom and that too without downloading any software.

 Kansas Department of Corrections chooses WizIQ

The KDOC operates state prisons in Kansas. The institution provides required training for staff, contractors, mentors, and community partners in and around Kansas, in excess of 5,000 people. KDOC’s courses are designed for learners ranging from beginners to experts.

In August 2011, the KDOC integrated the WizIQ Virtual Classroom with their Moodle installation. The institution now uses this new platform for its training and developmental programs designed for staff and other members resulting in 50% reduction in institutional spending on the training and 400% increase in number of online teachers. The KDOC now offers more than 50 online courses, and several hundred live training classes. 

To understand more about WizIQ’s Modle Virtual Classroom Plugin, visit:

What is the future of e-learning, in your opinion?
The future of e-learning is ‘Knowledge networking and Community building’. At WizIQ, we are building an online network of teachers and students and are providing them with the right tools to interact online to make education accessible to everyone.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

OpenSource Webinar / Web Conferencing Software: An Update

Open Source software does not always stay Open Source, and many of the products I’ve reviewed in the past either disappeared, were devoured by other products, were acquired by companies, or simply stopped the updates (rendering many fairly unusable).

So, I’ve put together a quick list of Open Source Webinar / Web-Conferencing software. They can be downloaded, and you can customize the look and feel, as well as providing hosting in an environment that you feel is more secure than using a commercial solution.

Let me state for the record that I am a BIG fan of BigBlueButton. The interface is straightforward and easy to use, and it’s flexible. You can participate with a video feed, or simply use an audio bridge. Participants can instant message as well as participate with audio bridge, and, to a limited extend, with video.  I also like the fact that BigBlueButton is accessible for Moodle 1.9 and above. However, there is a minor downside – your Moodle host may not have the latest plugin installed, and they may not be willing to install it.  So, there could be bugs. 

Video: Working with BigBlueButton in Moodle... 

In that case, the following options are available:

·        Option 1:  Change Moodle to a different hosting solution. Not always a good idea, since it’s not always easy to migrate everything to a new provider, especially student records and registrations.

·        Option 2:  Download BigBlueButton on your own webhosting provider. Some, like Fat Cow and Earthlink, will let you do so. However, check for bandwidth usage and data transfer fees. They can add up quite quickly.

·        Option 3:  Use a commercial hosting service such as or Generic Conferencing ( The downside is that your web conference / virtual class will need to be rather small to be affordable. For up to 5 attendees, it’s only $12.95 per month. However, with up to 50 attendees, the price escalates to $74.95.  In this case, it starts to seem as though a “per seat” solution such as one that Omnovia (their own interface, not BBB, although similar) offers ($50 / month, and $3.50 per seat) might be more affordable. It’s hard to say, though. It depends on how often you host webinars, and how many attendees you consistently have.

Getting Started with BigBlueButton in Moodle 2.3  

Note: I used to be an empassioned Elluminate devotee, but then they were acquired by Blackboard, and essentially imprisoned within an LMS. BIG Thumbs Down! I love solutions that can be standalone as well as integrated into your LMS (OpenSource and otherwise), and of course, if web conferencing software is OpenSource, it’s even better because can be a huge driver of innovation.

There is a Moodle Plugin for OpenMeetings, which is good if you’re hosting Moodle on your server. If you’re not, and you’re relying on someone else’s hosting services, you may not have administrative rights / permissions to add the plugin.

In that case, you’ll need to contact the administrator and ask them to go to the Moodle Plugin page and download the latest version.  Here’s a link to the Moodle Plugins Directory :

Non-OpenSource Web Conferencing Moodle Plugins

WizIQ has a couple of very interesting products that will work in Moodle 2.4.  There is a Virtual Classroom plugin, along with a Live Class web conferencing module / tool. 

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