Selected category: Water

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.

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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 »

Also posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Texas| Comments are closed

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.
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What We Know – And Don't Know – About Toxic Wastewater From The Oil And Gas Industry

By Cloelle Danforth and Steve Hamburg

For all that we hear and think about oil and gas production, wastewater may not be at the top of our list of concerns. And yet, onshore oil and gas operations in the United States produce more than 800 billion gallons of toxic wastewater each year.

Most oil and gas companies either dispose of this water deep underground, or recycle it for use in other wells. But a growing number of operators are now considering alternate ways to discharge or reuse this water above ground.

Before we can effectively manage this influx of wastewater in new ways, we need to have a better understanding of what’s in it. Read More »

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New EPA Rule Keeps Oil & Gas Wastewater out of Local Treatment Plants

TwoKidsDrinkFtn_42-19758561_Corbis_4C-CC_RFIf you like clean water, we’ve got good news. This week the EPA finalized an important Clean Water Act rule that cements commonsense protections for water resources. EPA’s new technology-based categorical pretreatment standard prevents unconventional oil and gas operators from delivering salty, toxic wastewater to publicly owned water treatment facilities — also known as POTWs. These facilities are designed to handle residential sewage, not industrial waste, and often are unable to treat the types of pollutants common in unconventional oil and gas wastewater.

Since 1979, the Clean Water Act has prohibited onshore oil and gas operators in the eastern U.S. from directly discharging oil and gas wastewater to surface waters, like streams and lakes. But until now, there were no rules that applied to the wastewater that is disposed of at separate treatment facilities, or “indirect discharges.”

The final POTW pretreatment rule is consistent with current industry practice, but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to 2011, oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania delivered wastewater to POTWs for treatment and disposal with terrible results. These POTWs struggled to treat unconventional oil and gas wastewater due to elevated levels of halides, heavy metals, organic compounds, radionuclides and salts. High and fluctuating TDS (salt) levels in wastewater interfered with the biological treatment processes reducing treatment efficiency. Bromides that went through POTW disinfection processes were transformed into toxic disinfection by-products and released into receiving waters. Read More »

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