Washington, DC - A comprehensive new program designed by the Department of Energy to help America's oil and natural gas producers tackle produced water, one of their toughest environmental challenges, is now available on-line as a web-based tool.
The Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, in partnership with DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, has developed the Produced Water Management Information System (PWMIS).
The new system offers critical information on current technologies and best practices, summaries of relevant state and Federal regulations, and a decision tree for technology options to deal with produced water issues. America's small, independent oil and gas producers typically don't have the resources to pursue this information piecemeal but need such information on which to base their water management decisions. PWMIS is an easily navigable web tool that consolidates all the required information in one location. The new tool provides a two-for-one solution that could boost domestic energy security while enhancing the Nation's water supply.
Argonne developed the web tool under a research project funded by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy (FE), which is making significant progress in developing new ways to treat and utilize water coproduced with oil and natural gas.
Currently, there are nearly three dozen Fossil Energy projects for developing new technologies to expand the beneficial use of produced water and allow producers to turn a costly waste product into a valuable resource. FE's produced water research focuses on cost-effective solutions for limiting coproduction of water in oil and gas operations, as well as assessing and communicating to industry the best management practices among producers coping with this challenge.
Produced water occurs naturally in subsurface formations and can also be recovered following injection into an oil or gas reservoir to boost production. It accounts for 98 percent of all waste generated by U.S. oil and natural gas operations. Handling, treating, and safely disposing produced water has been a tough, costly challenge for oil and natural gas producers for decades. Much of the produced water has high concentrations of minerals or salts that make it unsuitable for beneficial use or surface discharge, and treatment and disposal of the water under Federal environmental rules can be prohibitively expensive.
More recently, concerns over produced water have threatened to cripple expansion of the Nation's fastest-growing new source of natural gas supply: coal bed natural gas (CBNG). Much of the water produced in the process of recovering natural gas from coal beds can be treated and used for crop irrigation, livestock and wildlife watering, and industrial purposes. But the costs can be high. Especially large volumes of produced water are generated in association with CBNG development in the Western States. There is tremendous appeal in turning wastewater from oil and gas operations into a useful product, especially in this arid region where drought is a chronic threat.