Oklahoma's Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group Releases Study Report

Staff Writer

Oklahoma's Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group (PWWG) today released its study report as part of a review of alternatives for produced water disposal from oil and gas operations in Oklahoma. In December 2015, Governor Mary Fallin charged a 17-member fact-finding group led by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to study and recommend ways that water produced in oil and natural gas operations may be recycled or reused as part of Oklahoma's ongoing efforts to promote water supply reliability and drought resiliency across multiple water user sectors.

"I thank the working group for completing this initial review of the opportunities and challenges associated with reducing produced water injection as well as reducing the use of fresh water in oil and gas production," said Fallin. "I know many of the oil and gas producers in Oklahoma continue to work diligently on the issue of water reuse and recycling innovation, and they remain committed to responsible development of our state's resources. At the same time, our agencies are working diligently on responsible and cost-effective ways to harness Oklahoma's marginal quality waters for use as a way to better manage Oklahoma's fresh water supplies. That's why I believe it was critically important to conduct this study with input from a wide spectrum of industry sectors and regulatory agencies as it brings together these two very important efforts."

In support of the working group’s efforts, a technical study team conducted a preliminary investigation of the feasibility and cost effectiveness of several scenarios. The report identified several options that warrant further study, including treatment and reuse of produced water by local oil and gas operations, transfer to areas of high demand, and use of evaporation technologies. The report may be viewed here.

"This report is an important first step into the investigation of produced water use," said Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague. "It will serve as an important guide as we continue further detailed research of these alternatives that will undoubtedly be the next critical steps in this on-going effort."

This work is a continuation of the implementation of the 2012 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP). In one of several actions to implement the plan’s priority recommendations, the passage of the Water for 2060 Act in 2012 established Oklahoma as the first state to set a 50-year goal of holding fresh water consumption fixed while preserving future economic and population growth. The act calls for the use of voluntary conservation, water infrastructure improvements and development of marginal water supplies, like produced water, that are currently underutilized.

"The Oklahoma Water Resources Board was appreciative of the readiness of oil and gas industry representatives and all other water use sectors, economic development officials, research assistants and state regulators to come together to find solutions to the economics as well as the timing and regulatory issues surrounding the feasibility of reuse," said OWRB Executive Director Julie Cunningham. “We recognize that finding solutions will be challenging but the input from this unique, diverse group will continue to help us focus on the most promising options, as we define further research needs and possible funding partnerships moving forward.”

"We appreciate the outstanding contributions from both working group members and the technical study team to provide input and identify potential solutions to the economic and regulatory issues surrounding the feasibility of produced water reuse,” she said. “We recognize the challenges, but the input from this diverse group has and will continue to focus our development of options, additional research and potential partnerships moving forward. This work significantly contributes to our overall effort to manage and protect water supplies to meet the state’s future needs.”

Members of the workgroup were selected to represent Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry along with a wide array of potential water users and stakeholders, including industry, power generation, agriculture, public water providers, state regulators, environmental non-governmental organizations, and research organizations and universities.