Energy Exchange

If we’re not careful, EPA’s new water reuse plan could lead to more pollution

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released details of a new plan that aims to address concerns about future water shortages. The Water Reuse Action Plan suggests that by recycling and reusing more wastewater, we can “improve the availability of freshwater” and avoid a water access crisis.

There are certainly a number of opportunities we can and should seize to make better use of our water resources, but the plan leaves out a lot of crucially important details that must be a part of any truly sustainable water plan.

One of the biggest concerns EDF has is how the plan frames (or, more specifically doesn’t frame) important issues with reusing the oil and gas industry’s wastewater.

Oil and gas wastewater is extremely complicated. It’s very salty and it can contain radioactive chemicals from deep underground, toxic substances used in the drilling process, and a slew of other concerning pollutants. What’s in the water varies from day-to-day, well site-to-well site and state-to-state, which makes it even more difficult to set any kind of safety standard for how to treat it.

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Posted in Natural Gas, produced water, Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Clean water regulators at the brink — Changes to the Clean Water Act spell trouble for New Mexico

Earlier this year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its proposal to dismantle significant portions of the Clean Water Act. Historic federal protections for some rivers and streams and wetlands will no longer be there — essentially allowing polluters to dump untold amounts of waste into our waterways unless state provisions stop them.

The decision could generate unknown repercussions to waterways across the country, and perhaps no state is more vulnerable than New Mexico.

The reason? New Mexico has very few surface water protections of its own, which means without federal standards, the state is facing an uphill battle to develop the tools it needs in order to step in and prevent polluters from contaminating water.

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Posted in Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water, produced water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Trump’s EPA may weaken restrictions on disposal of oilfield wastewater — here’s what you need to know

Many Americans are aware that we are experiencing a major energy boom. But what many folks may not realize is that with this increase in oil and gas, also comes an increase in waste – specifically wastewater. In fact, for every barrel of oil produced wells can generate 10 times as much chemical-laden wastewater. All told, the industry produces over 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year, and we know very little about the chemicals in it.

Traditionally, companies have pumped this wastewater deep underground, but the growing volume is creating new challenges– leading many to wonder whether there may be different options for managing or reusing it. One of those options is treatment and discharge to rivers or streams.

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Three things to know ahead of EPA’s oil and gas wastewater meeting

Tomorrow, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a special meeting to update the public about what the agency has learned since launching an examination into our nation’s current practices for handling wastewater from the oil and gas industry.

This research endeavor comes at a very salient time. The volume of wastewater generated by onshore oil and gas development is growing larger by the day – with production reaching nearly 900 billion gallons a year. This massive influx is forcing states, companies and other stakeholders to seriously think about whether our current methods for handling this wastewater are the best methods for the future based on a number of shifting dynamics.

The meeting tomorrow will allow agency officials to provide updates about what they’ve learned so far, and will give energy experts and other interested stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in with additional intel and perspectives. Here are three things to keep in mind ahead of tomorrow’s hearing. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas, produced water, Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

State leaders concerned about safety of reusing oil and gas wastewater

Regulators from across the country met in Vermont this week at the Environmental Council of the State’s (ECOS) fall meeting to discuss some of the nation’s most pressing environmental challenges. I joined members of ECOS’ Shale Gas Caucus to discuss an emerging threat imminently impacting oil and gas-producing states: the question of what to do with the massive amount of wastewater produced by the oil and gas industry each year.

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Posted in California, Colorado, General, Natural Gas, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, produced water, produced water, State, Texas, Water, Wyoming / Tagged | Comments are closed

Why drinking water standards are the wrong standards for oil and gas wastewater

“It’s so clean I’d drink it.”

Travel to any recent conference or trade show on produced water management and there’s a good chance you’ll hear this line or something similar. I’ve heard it myself, alongside claims that a patented treatment delivers water that’s “fresh” or “meets drinking water standards.”

This sort of talk is on the rise as operators and regulators look for ways to reuse produced water both inside and outside of the oilfield. Some of these uses carry real risks to human health and the environment from chemicals that may be present—even after treatment. At first blush, if the product can be called “fresh” or meets drinking water standards, it doesn’t sound risky. So why the worry? The reality is that these statements tell us very little about the quality of treated produced water.

“Fresh” from a scientific perspective, means next to nothing. And drinking water standards are simply the wrong standards to apply to produced water, or for that matter any treated wastewater – industrial or municipal. Here’s why.

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