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August 2020 eNews

UNM Researchers Perform a Quantitative Analysis of Water Used and Wastewater Produced by the Oil and Gas Industry

UNM Researchers Perform a Quantitative Analysis of Water Used and Wastewater Produced by the Oil and Gas Industry

By Carolina Mijares, NM WRRI Program Manager

Each month NM WRRI is featuring an eNews article describing an individual focus of the ongoing New Mexico Universities Produced Water Synthesis Project (NMUPSWP).  The NMUPWSP seeks to support integrated research from different disciplines to show the impact of produced water on NM water budgets and it complements the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium led by NMSU and NMED. This month we are featuring research being carried out by Drs. Bruce Thomson and Janie Chermak at The University of New Mexico (UNM).

Dramatic changes in the relationship between oil, gas, and water havebeen the result of increasing development of unconventional shale resources. Some of the more notable changes include demand for large volumes of water required for hydraulic fracturing, increased volumes of produced water, new opportunities and technologies for treating and reusing produced water, and limitations of produced water disposal by injection into salt water disposal wells. It is, therefore, important to understand how future operations will affect water demand and produced water production by the oil and gas industry in New Mexico.

This study will produce a quantitative analysis of water used and wastewater produced by the oil and gas industry. The analysis will also determine trends in the relationship between oil, gas, and water that will identify water related challenges within the industry, and reveal strategies for improved water management to limit the industry’s impact on freshwater sources and limited produced water disposal facilities.

A large amount of data on the relationship between oil, gas, and water has been collected by New Mexico state agencies; however, because these databases are very large and difficult to access, little analysis of this data has been conducted to date. The objective of this project is to use existing data to address three questions: What are the sources and volumes of freshwater used for oil and gas development? How much produced water is generated by the industry, how is it managed, what fraction can be reused, and how is it disposed of? What are the trends in water use, wastewater production, and technological developments that may influence future industry water management strategies?

The New Mexico Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC) has submitted a companion proposal and the PRRC and UNM teams are collaborating on this effort. More details regarding the PRRC proposal’s goals and objectives will be provided in the following months. The research performed in this study will provide a better understanding of the technical, economic, social, and regulatory constraints to produced water treatment, reuse, and disposal. More so, it will identify gaps in water data that constrain industry and regulatory management programs.