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Using produced water outside oilpatch requires data, education - Energy And Water Development Corp

Using produced water outside oilpatch requires data, education

Permian Basin producers face a significant challenge in managing the water that is produced alongside their crude oil and natural gas.

To manage those volumes, producers are increasingly turning to recycling and reusing that water. But, as water managers point out, the more recycled water is used, the more water is produced alongside increased volumes of crude and natural gas. That is why uses outside the oil patch are being sought.

One challenge, said Matthias Sayer, senior vice president, legal with NGL Water Solutions, is public concern over what is in the water or that promoting beneficial use encourages the carbon-intensive oil and gas industry.

“We cannot overstate the importance of educating the public on how the industry is mitigating risks,” Sayer stated.

For Dave Ross, partner in Troutman Sanders, produced water could be a major viable source of water in a country where 48 of 50 states experience some form of drought.

“We need to look at how to reuse this major resource,” he told those attending the recent Permian Basin Water in Energy Conference at the Horseshoe. Simply reusing it to produce more oil and natural gas or injecting it into reservoirs is not right, he said.

The first step is knowing just what is in that produced water, Dan Mueller, senior manager, energy with the Environmental Defense Fund, said.

“It’s building awareness of the chemicals in the water,” he said. “What is produced water? What are they going to do with that water?”

Mueller said research has identified more than 1,350 constituents I produced water, three-quarters of which are not regulated. Only 12 percent are regulated and have toxicity regiments but lack federal water quality criteria and only eight percent are covered by the Clean Water Act.

“Not all constituents are bad actors, but some are, and we need to narrow down to those bad actors,” Mueller said. Produced water consortiums formed in New Mexico and Texas are an excellent way to further that research, he added.

Deborah Dixon, a fellow with the New Mexico Produced Water Consortium, discussed how her state implemented a regulatory framework that provided incentives for oil and gas producers to move away from using fresh water by removing barriers to recycling and reusing produced water.

Cost effectiveness and cost competitiveness are important, she said. So is data and she said the consortium has been collecting and sharing data.

James Rosenblum, research assistant professor and manager of the Colorado School of Mines Water Technology Hub, said his hub is advancing treatment processes to turn produced water into potable water. It produced 7,000 gallons a day of drinkable water, he said.

An important step is to evaluate the chemical constituents in the produced water as they go through the treatment process and detail how the treated water stacks up against water from other sources.

Said Ross, “We have a dire need for more water in this country and we have the technology to make it happen.”

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