Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group

Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group

Water for 2060 aims to consume no more fresh water in 2060 than was consumed in 2010.

by Dr. Justin Moss, Interim Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center

Governor Mary Fallin announced the formation of the Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group (PWWG) in December 2015 at the Governor’s Water Conference and Research Symposium. The PWWG is led by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and is made up of 17 expert members from across the state, including Oklahoma Water Resources Center-affiliated faculty member, Dr. David Lampert. The PWWG was assembled as a non-regulatory group created to focus on potential regulatory, technical, and economic issues related to produced water reuse or recycling in Oklahoma. The PWWG has met five times from early 2016 to March 2017, and has prepared a final study report concerning produced water reuse and recycling in Oklahoma, facilitated by Michael Dunkel of CH2M, which is available at: https://www.owrb.ok.gov/2060/pwwg.php

In the study, the PWWG investigated produced water production across 66 Oklahoma counties and obtained produced water quality data from 29 Oklahoma counties. The PWWG also looked at current produced water treatment costs for various volume levels and water quality levels for eight companies in Oklahoma.

Based on this information, the PWWG developed 10 case studies of produced water reuse or recycling in Oklahoma with potential treatment and/or disposal costs ranging from $0.57/barrel of water to over $7/barrel of water (barrel = 42 gallons of water).  These various case studies assumed a treated volume of either 20,000 or 100,000 barrels of water per day and total salinity levels ranging from 10,000 mg/L to 150,000 mg/L TDS. The options that were closer to $0.57/barrel were for produced water treatment to a clean brine while the more expensive options were for produced water treatment for desalination.

The PWWG concluded that produced water reuse by the oil and natural gas industry is the most viable in the short term as these companies have the leverage and financial incentive to do so, but are limited by available produced water pipelines to deliver water to/from hydraulic fracturing sites. Desalination could be a viable long term solution, but technologies and strategies must be developed first to lower desalination water treatment costs compared treatment to the clean brine level or for deep well injection/disposal.

For the future, the PWWG worked together to submit a grant application to the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART program for possible funding to continue to investigate produced water options and solutions for Oklahoma and to delve deeper into the PWWG initial findings. Funding for these awards should be announced in mid-2017. 

Note that in their study, the PWWG did not consider alternatives for produced water reuse that were not considered economically feasible due to the cost of treatment and/or environmental and regulatory issues. This included reusing produced water for agricultural use for irrigation, aquifer storage and recovery, and mining. For more information, visit the Oklahoma Water Resources Board's "Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group" website at: https://www.owrb.ok.gov/2060/pwwg.php.

Learn more and watch videos in which Dr. David Lampert discusses PWWG findings on our Water Issues in Energy Development page.

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