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Water Conservation in the Oilfield

PPDC hosts symposium to discuss water conservation the oilfield
Midland -- The rig count in Texas is currently around 500, many of which are unconventional wells.  "In other words, they're drilling into rock that's so tight that it would not produce unless it was hydraulically fractured," said Petroleum Professional Development Center director Hoxie Smith.

According to Smith, hydraulically fracturing a well can take four to six million gallons of water.   "So with the tremendous drought that we've been through and it doesn't look like it's going to get better soon, water is an issue," said Smith.
   
Luckily, there are some solutions, which is what was being discussed at a water symposium at Midland College.

"As an industry, we need to look other methods to be able to continue our business because the practices we're using right now are going to become more and more difficult for us to do that," said Anthony Smith, field water foreman for Pioneer Natural Resources.

Smith adds that may mean finding ways to recycle water being used on location instead of disposing of it.  It may also mean moving away from the use of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing.

"We can use salt water to do that. A lot of the formation water that we bring to the surface is very salty, so we have to remove certain components of that so it doesn't affect the formation when we re-inject it, but that water is reusable," said Dave Stewart, Energy Water Solutions.
   
From an operators standpoint, there are a number of other things that can be done to conserve water already being used. "We can look at reducing evaporation or handle water from location to location more efficiently and more effectively," said Smith.  For example, he says the industry can use evaporation covers and piping that doesn't leak as much.
   
Smith also believes it's time to tap into a water supply that's never been used.  "There are different zones in different areas throughout the Permian Basin in which water that's not considered a fresh water ...that's considered a brackish water," said Smith. "We know that they're there, it's just a matter of how we access that water and what we can do with that water when it comes to the surface."
   
From finding new water resources to conserving those already in use, these are just a few ways the industry is working to ensure H2O doesn't become an issue when it comes to supplying energy for our future.

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