An Evaluation of Water Management Opportunities Related to Oil and Gas Development – Upper Washita River Basin, Oklahoma

Project ID: 3607
Principal Investigator: Anna Hoag
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: oil and gas industry water use, produced water, hydraulic fracturing, water value

Research Question

The oil and gas industry is a growing consumer of water due to the use of advanced hydrocarbon extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing. Water demands related to hydraulic fracturing can range by basin from 500,000 gallons to over 10,000,000 gallons per well. Depending on the geologic formation 5 to 80% of the hydraulic fracturing fluid returns from the formation, co-mingled with natural formation water, as flowback water. After initial flowback, smaller water volumes are continuously produced from the formation over the well lifetime, termed as produced water.

Flowback and produced water are often saline with numerous contaminants requiring treatment to produce a suitable quality supply. Produced water has the potential to offset industry water requirements if water treatment is used as a management strategy. Water demand for the energy industry is frequently omitted in water management studies due to availability of data and lack of information for assessing water requirements. To determine water requirements, production volumes, and potential management strategies the following research questions are proposed:

1. What is the extent of current oil and gas production in the Upper Washita Basin and what is the projected development?

2. What existing water allocations and water rights are associated with the oil and gas industry?

3. What sources of water are used in hydraulic fracturing applications in the region (groundwater, surface water, produced water, etc.)?

4. What produced water management and beneficial use options exist to manage the water supply generated by the industry in the basin?

5. What is the well field demand and what are the co-locating requirements for a centralized wastewater treatment facility to meet industry needs?

6. What type of produced water treatment processes are appropriate for the region?

7. Finally, what are the estimated costs, benefits, and value of the treated supply?

Need and Benefit

In arid regions of the US the average consumptive use of water resources continues to increase and exceed the available fresh water supply. Water shortages are expected to increase due to strains on water resources stemming from factors such as population growth and climate change. Limited volumes of conventional water resources have increased interest in the use of alternate water sources to meet growing demands. These alternate sources often require more rigorous treatment than conventional resources, but their untapped potential is attractive for bridging the gap between water availability and water demand.

This research project is proposed in collaboration with the Upper Washita WaterSMART Basin Study. The basin study is a collaboration of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), Foss and Fort Cobb Reservoir Master Conservancy Districts, along with their member cities and power generation facilities, and the Bureau of Reclamation's Oklahoma-Texas Area Office. The basin study focuses on the Upper Washita Basin in west central Oklahoma. The study area boundaries coincide with the Anadarko Basin, an active oil and gas producing basin, and Woodford shale play, an active gas shale gas play with significant development and high projected expansion.

Produced water co-exists naturally with oil and gas deposits in subsurface formations and represents the largest waste stream associated with oil and gas production. Additionally, a significant amount of water is required to produce hydrocarbons for unconventional resources, such gas shale. The impact of hydraulic fracturing on a watershed scale is not well understood or quantified. Collaboration of this research with a Basin Study assessment of water requirements enhances the understand of water demand and supply related to the energy industry. This research leverages previous Reclamation research on produced water. The collective knowledge of previous research has been compiled for the Reclamation produced water report series. These reports include

(i) Oil and gas produced water management and beneficial use in the western United States (2011),
(ii) Produced water treatment primer for oil and gas operations (2013), and
(iii) Guidance for the evaluation of produced water as an alternative water supply (2013).

This comprehensive background information, prepared in previous S&T funding years, provides the background basis required to assess the water demand and potential supply related to oil and gas production in the Upper Washita Basin.

Contributing Partners


Research Products

The final deliverables for this study would serve as a case study example outlining the application of the Reclamation oil and gas water management report series on a Basin Study level.
1. A report on water management options for oil and gas producers that make use of water treatment to reduce oil and gas hydraulic fracturing demands (i.e., through on-site reuse) or make additional water available for various beneficial uses (i.e., through centralized, off-site treatment)
2. Summary write-ups on alternative water sourcing available to meet current and future O&G demands
3. Oil and gas water demand and production maps for the Basin Study region

Additional research products would include a journal publication on the basin water balance and a publication on the value of treated water for the oil and gas industry. Conference presentations would be given to share this research with the public. Workshop or participation in the basin study working group would also be included.

Last Updated: June 29, 2015