Oil, gas industry finding solutions to water usage

Published on Saturday, 7 September 2013 22:48 - Written by By Alex Mills Texas Alliance of Energy Producers

Water usage by the oil and gas industry has drawn the attention of just about everyone in Texas, especially because of the lack of rain during the past three years.

The oil and gas industry has been concerned about water issues, too, for a variety of reasons.

First, there are the costs of securing and disposing of water in the drilling, completion and production phases. As hydraulic fracturing operations increase, the economics of water usage rises.

The industry’s reaction has been to find solutions to the water issues and the related issues such as truck traffic, increased noise, air emissions from operations, and disposal issues.

Some solutions include the creation of specialty oil field products and services for treating water designed to maximize production and reducing costs.

It is important to note that a solution successfully developed in North Texas may not work in another area, say the Permian Basin. Different field characteristic present different problems from region to region.

One obvious method of reducing cost and solving the disposal issues is to reuse the water used in a fracturing operation. Research has been ongoing in perfecting desalination methods to get the used water back to within acceptable purification levels. If the water can be treated and reused, that also will reduce the cost of disposal.

Another cost-cutting method is to use temporary pipelines to transport water from the producing well to the disposal well. Some of the pipes used are hoses the lay flat that can be installed quickly and at a fraction of the cost of permanent pipe.

Some operators are storing water in above ground storage tanks onsite and reduce the need for frac tanks on site.

All of these operations require a high degree of planning and coordination between operators and service companies.

Industry has been working with members of the Texas Legislature and the Texas Railroad Commission to develop laws and regulations. The recently concluded legislative session had hundreds of bills that addressed these issues. The RRC has passed revisions to its drilling and completion rule that will become effective Jan. 1, and it is looking at changes to its rule impacting water injection wells.

Protection of water resources and water usage are critical issues industry faces.