Foster Progress on Water Reuse and Recycle
Posted September 17, 2019
With industry keenly focused on conserving water in production zones across the country, a draft federal water reuse plan unveiled this summer by EPA has the potential to foster innovations and investments that can accelerate sound management practices.
In official comments on the plan, API and a number of other energy associations encouraged the agency to consider ways to “provide maximum flexibility, certainty, and clarity” to existing regulatory structures while removing federal barriers within the federal government’s control that discourage and disincentivize the reuse, recycling, and fit-for-treatment uses of water.
At issue is water produced in association with well development that must be captured and accounted for in ways that protect the environment – including treating it for reuse in energy operations or disposal in federally regulated disposal wells. From the comments by API and the other associations:
Our members develop and apply innovative technologies to use and reuse various qualities of water in all aspects of their operations. Yet, in some regions, the oil and gas industry is hampered by federal and state regulations which inhibit the utilization of produced water for appropriate reuse and recycling uses.
The basic idea is to foster more innovation and new technologies for water reuse and recycling – underscored in a new Texas white paper released this week. The document, which focused on Texas natural gas and oil production, found that produced water recycle and reuse is likely to increase along growing need for water in hydraulic fracturing operations. The paper found that current and emerging treatment technologies can support cost-effective recycle and reuse in the industry and that the right laws, regulations and economic incentives can help expand those approaches. John Tintera, one of the white paper’s authors, in U.S. House testimony earlier this year:
“Good regulations are built on three fundamental principles: science, fact and due process. As scientific knowledge expands and new facts are uncovered, it is important that the due process employed by regulators in drafting rules keep pace with technology and operations of the industry they regulate.”
At the federal and state levels, removing barriers to expanded water reuse/recycling is critically important. API and the other associations:
[T]he oil and natural gas industry is committed to the reuse of the water within our operations to offset fresh water needs and reduce the need for disposal, but … options for produced water management are significantly narrowed by regulatory and economic constraints. Due to the regulatory landscape, the majority of produced water is injected into Class II UIC wells, either for disposal or enhanced oil recovery. However, there are innovative methods to recycle and reuse produce waters that can be utilized. Removing regulatory constraints to allow for produced waters in certain water reuse contexts would be a positive step forward from regulatory, environmental, and economic perspectives.
Among other things, API and its partner associations urge EPA’s water plan to:
- Promote flexibility and certainty in meeting water quality requirements through risk-based standards and green infrastructure.
- Provide funding for technology innovation and encourage public/private sector partnerships.
- Promote a skilled workforce through new training and certification programs that recognize potable and nonpotable reuse technologies are different from traditional water and wastewater technologies.
- Expand the current regulatory framework to facilitate produced water discharge. Produced water management should balance the goals of protecting water quality while ensuring environmentally sound water management, which is needed to conserve water and expand produced water alternatives.
The U.S. shale revolution has reshaped the energy landscape, and as the U.S. looks to continue global leadership in energy production and supply, it’s critically important for regulatory structures to embrace innovative technologies that incentivize the reuse and recycling of water.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.