The temporary workforce housing market has come a long way. Back in the early 1900s, construction workers at the Hoover Dam lived in an infamous shantytown of tents, cardboard boxes, and tin scraps. Nowadays, workers at oil and gas, construction, infrastructure, and mining sites expect quality accommodations. Comfortable accommodations are important and can attract and retain employees.
A key element of modern workforce housing is modular design, meaning that each home is built in a factory and then shipped to the work site. Modular design brings many advantages. It’s quick and easy to set-up, easy to scale, portable, durable, versatile, and customizable.
Despite the innovation in modular housing design, some worker camps still build old-fashioned water and wastewater treatment facilities with long pipelining systems that tie into local treatment infrastructure. Building the pipelining system is time consuming and expensive, and it’s challenging to move if the camp relocates. Another issue: When worker camps rely on local infrastructure, the increased load can overwhelm a system designed for a lower volume. This can lead to rate hikes, as well as friction with local officials, regulators, and communities. On-site treatment, however, alleviates these problems.
Even worse, some camps dispose of the wastewater untreated, which is harmful to the environment and damages relationships with the local community. To protect the environment, many countries have created quality requirements for wastewater disposal.
It’s time for wastewater treatment to catch up with the rest of the worker housing architectural innovations – it’s time to go modular.
At Fluence, we believe that modular, on-site water and wastewater treatment units are the way of the future.
Modular treatment solutions share all the benefits of modular housing. Unlike traditional methods, pre-engineered, containerized units are quick to set up and easy to relocate. Since they are built inside of standard shipping containers, the planning, engineering, and assembly are taken care of before the unit is even shipped. And with new technologies, they match the water quality and price points of centralized plants.
Setting Up a Complete Water Cycle Solution
A complete water cycle solution means bringing in a steady supply of safe water into the camp (through water treatment), and making the most of every drop on the way out (through wastewater treatment and reuse).
Fluence offers two Smart Packaged lines that are ideal for modular housing installations:
- NIROBOX™ Smart Packaged desalination and water purification units use reverse osmosis (RO) to produce a reliable flow of drinking water from water sources including seawater, brackish-water aquifers, and fresh surface water. Breakthroughs in membrane technology have increased efficiency, and reduced costs and maintenance to make decentralized treatment a viable choice.
- Aspiral™ Smart Packaged wastewater treatment units treat wastewater to high standards — including both California’s stringent Title 22 and China’s Class 1A — to allow reuse for virtually any nonpotable application, for instance landscaping irrigation, dust control, toilet flushing, heap leaching, and firefighting. Aspiral is based on revolutionary MABR technology, which uses passive aeration and simultaneous nitrification-denitrification (SND) to deliver a very high-quality effluent while slashing energy bills and shrinking space needed.
Treating Wastewater for Worker Housing in New Mexico
Consider one Fluence project at a temporary oilfield workforce housing encampment in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Like many camps in the Permian Basin, the desert camp was finding it difficult to safely handle its wastewater, and more than 140 housing installations in the same county had already been cited as noncompliant.
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) responded with an aggressive code-enforcement policy, but encouraged what it called, “innovative economic solutions.”
In response, the operator of the camp commissioned a Smart Packaged Aspiral™ wastewater treatment plant to bring it into compliance and eliminate its burden on the local water infrastructure. The modular Aspiral plant transforms the camp’s sewage into safe, high-quality effluent that the camp uses to alleviate its dust problem.
New Mexico State Rep. Cathrynn Brown summed it up best: "Fluence Corporation’s technology is emblematic of the problem-solving and innovation we see occurring in many areas in southeastern New Mexico. This is a great win-win for everybody involved."
Impacting Many Industries
Beyond the oil and gas industry, rugged decentralized water treatment units can revolutionize operations in other industries.
Mining is a water-intensive industry. Conventional water supplies are stressed worldwide, and securing a reliable water supply is a make-or-break requirement for mine planning. For example, desalination plays an important role in Chile, where the mining industry is expressly prohibited by law from using traditional freshwater sources. Near coastlines and on top of brackish aquifers, Fluence’s NIROBOX™ desalination units can do double duty, providing not only water for the mining process but for miners in remote workforce housing.
Remote construction sites and lengthy infrastructure jobs such as pipelines and highway construction projects often require worker housing camps, and sometimes they have to be relocated multiple times. In such operations, Fluence modular units can be simply trucked to the next stretch of work.