Houston Chronicle

Reusing oil field wastewater for hydraulic fracturing operations will be critical to maintaining productivity in U.S. shale plays, a pair of studies reveals.

Studies: Water reuse key to the future of shale- oil and gas 360

Source: Houston Chronicle

In a pair of studies releases earlier this month, scientists with the University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences and three other universities studied how much wastewater eight major U.S. shale basins produced and then analyzed various options for recycling and reusing that water.

“The water volumes that are quoted vary widely, that’s why we did this study” UT researcher Bridget Scanlon said in a statement. “This really provides a quantitative analysis of hydraulic fracturing water demand and produced water volumes.”

Researchers determined that oil and natural gas wells from those eight shale basins produced more than160 billion gallons of wastewater in 2017 – enough water to fill more than 242,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Natural gas-rich basins such as the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania, researchers reported, produce much less wastewater than oil-rich shale plays such as the Permian Basin.

The western end of the Permian Basin, which is known as the Delaware Basin, will produce an estimated 10.4 trillion gallons of wastewater over the lifetime of the shale play but will only require 2.85 billion gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing operations, researchers reported.

Containing hydrocarbons, chemicals, salts and sometimes even radioactive contaminants, oil field wastewater, which is known in the industry as produced water, is too expensive to clean at levels acceptable for agriculture and municipal purposes.

Most oil field wastewater is injected deep underground at sites known as saltwater disposal wells.

Researchers determined that treating the wastewater and reusing it for hydraulic fracturing was the best and most sustainable option and key for the future of the industry.

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