As hydrocarbons are produced from both conventional and unconventional wells, water from the reservoir is also brought to the surface. These waters must be separated from the hydrocarbon stream, processed, and treated for beneficial re-use or disposal. The U.S. Department of Energy and its National Energy Technology Laboratory are focused on working with academia and industry to accelerate the development of potential process modifications, combinations, or enhancements that will enable the beneficial re-use of these produced waters, and in turn, provide significant reduction in the quantity of produced water going to deep, underground injection well facilities for disposal.
Specific research elements for the beneficial re-use of produced water aim to produce an engineering design and techno-economic justification, including a laboratory prototype, for a water treatment system that enhances existing commercial water treatment processes. These processes would produce a water supply for fit-for-purpose, beneficial re-use that is competitive with existing water supply costs.