Beneficial use of produced water outside the oil and gas industry: Development of a screening, testing, and evaluation framework to address stakeholder needs and concerns

Project ID: 21050
Principal Investigator: Zachary Stoll
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2021, 2022 and 2023
Keywords: None

Research Question

This project is no longer proceeding.

Produced water, naturally occurring water that exists in subsurface formations co-mingled with oil and gas (O&G), is brought to the surface in extremely large quantities during O&G production. In 2019, roughly 385 billion gallons of produced water were generated in New Mexico (NM) and Texas (TX) alone. These large volumes pose logistic and economic challenges for the O&G industry that can limit energy production; but produced water also represents an opportunity for water users if managed properly. Freshwater is often taken from local aquifers for hydraulic fracturing and/or O&G exploration, which puts further stress on already strained freshwater supplies for local communities. Ideally, produced water would be reused within the O&G field to reduce freshwater use; however, produced water generation typically exceeds reuse demands. Excess produced water is typically disposed of by deep well injection. In many areas, such as NM and TX, the subsurface formations are not suitable for injection or are nearing capacity, highlighting that disposal is becoming increasingly limited and the need for beneficial use outside of O&G fields.

This project will develop a screening, testing, and evaluation framework to assist Reclamation's stakeholders evaluate the reuse of produced waters. Pilot testing will be conducted at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) and will be used to calibrate the framework.

Need and Benefit

The framework developed in this project for screening, testing, and evaluating produced water treatment technologies in the context of beneficial use to mitigate risk to water users will enable increased use of produced water for beneficial use. This project will fill technical knowledge gaps and assist regulators in the development of beneficial use regulations. This project is mutually beneficial to the water and oil industries and offers many benefits to agriculture and food production.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20