The issue of water will continue to grow within the oil and gas industry, said Dana Murphy, state corporation commissioner.
Oklahoma is experiencing a growing energy connection between the industries drilling for oil and natural gas, she said. Electricity is needed to drill oil and gas wells, Murphy said.
Today’s energy nexus is including the water cycle to a much greater extent, due to hydraulic fracturing, Murphy said.
“I think the issue of the industry finding better ways to recycle and use water in a more efficient way is becoming much more critical,” Murphy said.
Oklahoma had 644 horizontal wells drilled here in 2007, Murphy said. In 2012, there were 1,648 horizontal wells drilled in the state. In contrast, there were 3,600 vertical wells drilled, which in 2012 was reduced to 1,515 non-horizontal wells, she said.
“You’re talking about the water needed to actually drill a well — to then do the completion — then when you get to production to be able to dispose of it,” Murphy explained.
Water is going to be a critical component of Oklahoma’s future, Murphy said. Some counties when experiencing long-term drought have difficulty sustaining a fresh water supply, Murphy said. Drilling in the Cana Field of Canadian County is where great amounts of water are not typically available, Murphy said.
“So that’s a county where you’ve seen several of the major companies drilling these big horizontal wells, build these large pits,” Murphy said. As much as 500,000 barrels of flow-back water has been held in these wells for use in the next hydraulic fracturing job, she said.
Environmental groups have voiced concern about the water that has been contaminated during the fracturing process, seeping into aquifers. Some states use treated water from municipalities for fracturing purposes, instead of using pond or well water, Murphy said.
Water is needed to drill a well, then complete the task with water and sand to break fractures in the reservoir before production of oil and/or gas begins. A recycling pit would be a more efficient use of water than forcing the back-flow of water into a well, Murphy said.
“I think the companies that are drilling are having to look at a wide array of options on how to actually deal with water,” Murphy said. “That’s one of the challenges they have.”
Devon Energy began the use of a recycling pit in 2005 when they began drilling horizontally within the Barnett Shale of Texas, Murphy said.
Closer to home, Devon worked closely with the Corporation Commission to get a reservoir pit permitted when developing the Cana Water Reuse Facility, said Cindy Allen, Devon spokeswoman.
The 500,000-barrel reservoir facility opened in June 2012 for water to be stored and piped to connecting well sites. Water management and stewardship is a priority for Devon Energy, Allen said.
“We’re conserving millions of gallons of fresh water with this,” Allen said. “… Toward the end of June, we had reused 4.8 million barrels of water.”
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