The Texas Produced Water Consortium (TXPWC) recently released a report to the Texas legislature on the beneficial reuse of produced water. The 130-page report was in response to Senate Bill 601, created by the Texas legislature in 2021. It outlined four directives and resulted in the formation of the Consortium “to bring together information resources to study the economics of and technology related to, and the environmental and public health considerations for, beneficial uses of fluid oil and gas waste.”
It is our opinion at B3 Insight that the report is a good step forward, but the Consortium only met one of the four directives of Senate Bill 601. The Consortium recommended funding of two pilot treatment projects, one in the Delaware Basin, and one in the Midland Basin. The objective is to test and analyze treatment systems of 50 bbl/day capacity co-located at a commercial recycling facility, and follow-up with bench scale testing to better understand the input and output stream characteristics. These projects could provide basin-specific data needed for analysis.
The three directives that were not met, or only partially met, include:
- Suggested changes to laws and administrative rules to better enable beneficial uses of fluid oil and gas waste, including specific changes to define uses outside the oil and gas industry,
- Suggested guidance for establishing oil and gas waste permitting and testing standards, and
- Developing an economic model for using oil and gas waste in a way that is economical and efficient and protects public health and the environment.
This begs the question, why were only one of four directives met? The Consortium’s inability to meet all directives underscores how complex the produced water problem is due to the difficulty that they faced.
Regarding the first directive, the report made suggestions to encourage collaboration between state agencies and looked at potential uses of oil and gas waste in other industries but did not provide any viable options. For the second and third directive, the Consortium indicated that these would be delayed until site-specific cost and test data is obtained from the pilot projects.
Developing effective treatment technology is one of the major obstacles that must be overcome. The report states that the technology must be able to treat produced water with a range of 120,000 – 130,000 total dissolved solids (TDS) to less than 200 TDS at a cost of $1 per barrel or less. This is an ambitious goal, as there are no current commercial operations of this type. Using current technology the range of known treatment costs are between $2.50 – $10 per barrel. Technical challenges that must be overcome include membrane failure, scaling, and legal and regulatory issues, including indemnity for the industry to embrace treatment at this scale.
We feel that more needs to be done to advance the Consortium directives. We recognize the good work that has been done to evaluate the potential for beneficial reuse of an estimated 2 billion barrels per year (256,000 acre-feet per year) of treated Permian produced water. It is estimated that the State of Texas could face a 6.9 million acre-feet shortage of water by 2070, so the work being done by the Consortium is crucial. Some practical solutions need to be found sooner than later.
For example, we feel that some of these solutions may be found by treating the water to less restrictive standards at a lower cost. The report mentions that concrete can be made with water less than 50,000 TDS but does not make any specific recommendations for treatment and use of produced water in this regard. Other solutions, such as using treated water for agriculture irrigation, may be found through less restrictive standards in combination with blending with fresh water for other beneficial uses. In conclusion, more work needs to be done to meet the goals of the Texas Legislature.
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