IOGCC issues produced water guidebook

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 11 -- The Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission has issued a guidebook cataloguing produced water data and water processing techniques used by oil and gas operators across the US.

The guidebook contains results of research funded by the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory and conducted by IOGCC and ALL Consulting. Researchers visited more than 80 production facilities in 25 states with regulators and operators as part of the study.

"What has historically been viewed as a waste that was efficiently disposed of in a cost-efficient and environmentally sound manner can now be efficiently managed and used as a valuable resource," said Dan Arthur, a partner in the Tulsa consulting firm.

IOGCC noted that US oil fields produced 20-50 times more water than crude, which traditionally has been a problem for the industry. Currently, each of the oil and gas producing states which make up IOGCC's membership are responsible for regulating produced water in accordance with its specific geology and geography.

US oil and gas operations produce 14 billion bbl/year of water, according to IOGCC. It pointed out that the Permian basin of Texas and New Mexico produces huge volumes, with only a small percentage suitable for irrigation. The Powder River basin in Wyoming and Montana produces only modest volumes, but most of this can be used for irrigation, it said.

Guidebook's features
Arthur said the guidebook will help state and federal authorities develop produced water regulations which encourage beneficial uses while protecting each region's environment. Oil and gas producers also can use it to plan produced water stewardship as they move into new areas, IOGCC said.

Technology transfer recommendations in the guidebook also may prove useful as operators try to maintain economic production from older fields that have progressed to higher water-to-oil ratios, it added. IOGCC said the guidebook also will provide operators a valuable reference as they pursue unconventional resource plays such as the Barnett shale or coalbed methane, which can involve unusually high initial water production rates.

The guidebook assembles operational parameters of produced water management strategies, leading edge water treatment technologies, and water reduction techniques into a catalogue of currently available practices. Many of these already are being used while others require more field trials, according to IOGCC.

Water quality data from many important US onshore oil and gas basins also are listed, with case studies providing examples of water stewardship successes and specific lessons to be learned. The guidebook also organizes water quality data in a geo-spatial framework "alongside average rainfall, evapo-transpiration, and population density" to identify US areas where water stewardship is important and beneficial use of produced water is vital.

Lastly, the guidebook can help educate landowners near oil and gas fields, concerned consumers, and environmental groups about the issue, IOGCC said.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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