Produced Water May Help Drought-Stricken Areas

When freshwater supplies are stressed from regional droughts, rising populations, falling groundwater levels and other factors, using produced water from oil and gas operations for certain applications could help affected communities and industries in the U.S. conserve precious surface water.

So says the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), which on Monday issued a report examining current regulations, practices and research needed to expand the use of produced water as a resource.

“As a national association of state oil and gas regulators and environmental protection agencies, we are concerned about the overuse of fresh groundwater resources and wanted to explore how produced water might help fill that gap,” GWPC Executive Director Mike Paque said in a written statement emailed to Rigzone.

According to GWPC, most oil and natural gas produced water is reinjected deep underground into producing oil and gas reservoirs to enhance production or into porous rocks for disposal. The reuse of produced water currently just accounts for approximately less than one percent of water produced, the organization added.

Spearheaded by GWPC’s member states, the report reflects input from scientists, regulatory officials, members of academia, the oil and gas industry and environmental groups – all of whom examined how produced water might enhance water certainty. The organization pointed out the nearly 550-page document, Produced Water: Regulations, Current Practices and Research Needs, comprises three modules:

  • Current Legal, Regulatory and Operational Frameworks
  • Produced Water Reuse in Unconventional Oil and Gas Operations
  • Produced Water Reuse and Research Needs Outside Oil and Gas Operations

“By identifying opportunities and challenges of using produced water and offering options for addressing them, the GWPC hopes to facilitate the development of produced water as a supplement to freshwater resources and fulfill its mission to promote the protection and conservation of groundwater for all beneficial uses,” noted Paque.

The report is available on GWPC’s website. Background information about the initiative appears in an Oct. 2018 Rigzone article.