Water For Energy: Challenges to Produced Water Reuse

HW 32 coversmallThe water required for oil and gas production is a hot topic in Colorado, and nationwide. We took a close look at it last fall in The Energy Issue of Headwaters magazine, exploring Colorado’s energy mix, oil and gas drilling, and the water market for power and energy. And although, compared to state-wide water usage, water for oil and gas only accounts for a small amount (as of 2011, the Division of Water Resources estimated that .47 percent of the state’s water withdrawals went to thermoelectric power generation; .03 percent to coal, natural gas, uranium and solar development; and .04 percent to hydraulic fracturing), in our water-limited state, where the energy industry could continue growing, players are competing for the same water. Reusing water and produced water is improving every year, and could make the water demands of the oil and gas industry less of a concern.  From Caitlin Coleman’s Headwaters article, Power in the Marketplace:

For oil and gas, recycling and reuse of water are improving. On the Western Slope, Encana recycles more than 95 percent of water used for or produced during drilling– this waste water cycles through the company’s four water treatment plants and is piped through a 300-mile network of pipelines to reach wells where it’s reused for hydraulic fracturing. Each barrel of water is reused an average of 1.33 times before disposal, says Encana spokesman Doug Hock.

“Everybody talks about what can we [the oil and gas industry] do to save water, and we’re doing it,” says Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “We’re becoming more efficient with our water, we’re recycling more water, we’re doing everything.”

Others say the industry could still do better, arguing that the state’s current deep well injection rate of 51 percent of contaminated drilling waste fluids removes a substantial amount of water entirely from the water cycle.


The Produced Water Reuse Initiative: Rocky Mountains will be held October 29-30 in Denver and recently conducted an industry poll to determine the biggest obstacles to reusing produced water. These were the results:

Many conference sessions are linked to these specific topics that are of concern to those who deal with water in the oil and gas industry, and as the report, displaying poll results says, “reusing produced water helps relieve the burden on fresh water and on the environment.” Of course, fresh water is important to all Coloradans and all industries.









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