Selected category: Water

Getting dangerously creative with oil and gas wastewater

Look before you leap – why learning more about oilfield wastewater is critical to reducing health and safety risks.

The oil and gas industry has a massive wastewater problem. And if the growing dialogue about new ways of dealing with it are any indication, it may get worse if we aren’t careful.

Cost concerns, pressure to conserve water, and other factors have led some oil and gas companies to consider new ways to manage or repurpose wastewater – including using it to irrigate crops. That could create more problems than it solves.

Managing the massive amount of oil and gas wastewater has been a challenge for energy companies for generations. Some wells produce up to 10 times more wastewater than oil. In the United States, companies produce nearly 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year. That’s enough to fill over 1,000 football stadiums.

Ongoing Risks

Oil and gas wastewater is often many times saltier than sea water – and can ruin soil for generations if large amounts spill or leak during storage or transport.  In fact, landowners with a long history of oil and gas production on their lands know that a wastewater spill can cause much more long term damage to their land than an oil spill. Read More »

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Experts weigh in: we need to learn about chemicals in oilfield wastewater before reusing it outside the oilfield

Oil and gas companies are looking for new ways to reuse salty, toxic wastewater — including crop irrigation.

A recent publication of the Air and Waste Management Association (AMWA) contained a number of articles by academia and industry experts about the many challenges of managing the nearly 900 billion gallons of wastewater (also called produced water) generated every year by oil and gas production. This wastewater is not only very salty but also contains a number of chemicals (many toxic) and potentially radioactive material.

The majority of this wastewater is disposed in deep underground wells to minimize the risks of it coming into contact with humans or the environment (though leaks and spills at the surface are still a big concern). But in hope of lowering costs, in recent years industry has been trending toward finding other ways to either dispose of or recycle this waste – in part because demand for water resources is increasing in drought prone areas and because disposal wells have been linked to a rise in earthquakes.

The articles in AWMA’s magazine suggest that recycling oilfield wastewater to complete new wells is the most viable alternative to traditional disposal methods. Definitely more viable than reusing this water in other ways outside oil and gas operations. Read More »

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Report identifies ways to reduce water contamination from oil and gas development in Texas

A new report from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) is shedding more light on what we know and don’t know about the potential health and environmental impacts caused by oil and gas development in Texas.

The report, the first of-its-kind authored by experts across the state, looks at all areas of concern related to oil and gas – including seismicity, air pollution, land and traffic issues  – but TAMEST’s observations about the risks to water are especially noteworthy.

Read More »

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New report offers long-awaited answers about reusing oil and gas industry’s wastewater

A new report from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s (OWRB) Produced Water Working Group indicates that oil and gas companies looking for ways to dispose of large volumes of wastewater should focus on recycling those liquids within the oil and gas fields, and not – as some suggest – use it for irrigation or other surface applications where human and environmental exposure is a risk.

The Produced Water Working Group, a panel of 17 state experts convened by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin in December, 2015, to study various options for wastewater reuse, determined that treating wastewater for use outside of the oil field is not economical, nor are the environmental and health risks well understood.

In fact, the Working Group didn’t evaluate health and environmental risks for any of the 10 alternative uses evaluated. While research into reducing the cost of desalination, by powering treatment facilities with solar or excess lease gas, for example, may be promising, it won’t be sufficient to green light uses that introduce oil and gas wastewater into contact with communities and ecosystems.

To that end, the OWRB recommends that scientific efforts should be devoted to “identifying toxicological risks and protective water quality targets to ensure that the environment and public health are adequately protected under various reuse scenarios.” This is exactly right. Read More »

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Lowering Desalination’s Energy Footprint: Lessons from Israel

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Kate Zerrenner and Leon Kaye of Triple Pundit standing in a desalination pipe at Sorek.

There’s an old expression that whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting over. The Legislative Session is upon us again in Texas, and count on water being an issue, as it always is in this drought and flood-prone state.

To start, this Session will see the approval of the 2017 State Water Plan (SWP), which is done in five-year cycles. In the five years since the last plan, Texas has gone from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding, which resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.

Moreover, as more people move to Texas and climate change advances, there will be greater strain on the state’s water supplies. According to the SWP, Texas is already in a tighter situation than it was just five years ago: Surface water and groundwater availability will be 5 percent lower in 2060 compared to predictions in the 2012 plan, and existing water supplies are expected to drop by 11 percent between 2020 and 2070. Where are we supposed to get the water we need? Read More »

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Why 10,000 Spills From Oil and Gas Development Can’t Be Ignored

THe "Texon Scar" A massive release of produced water from an oil well in West Texas caused a vegetative dead zone that can be seen from space

The "Texon Scar"
A massive release of produced water from an oil well in West Texas caused a vegetative dead zone that can be seen from space.

Oil and gas development produces massive amounts of air and water pollution that can have severe impacts on our communities and ecosystems.  And data in a recent investigative article could help us understand more about where and how much oil, wastewater, and other fluids are spilled across the country.

According to an EnergyWire  article by Pamela King and Mike Soraghan, in 2015 industry reported more than 10,000 cases of spills across the country.  That amounts to 42 million gallons of harmful fluids – 12 million gallons more than previously reported.
Read More »

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