For every barrel of oil produced in the Permian Basin, there are at least two barrels of water. In the Delaware Basin, some wells lift 10 barrels of water for every barrel of oil, according to Wood Mackenzie.
As produced water volumes grow, disposal wells become harder and more expensive to permit. At the same time, both public and private investors increasingly push the industry to minimize its impacts on the environment, including freshwater supplies, while continuing to practice fiscal restraint and deliver strong returns.
Recycling produced water is one way for operators to achieve both financial and environmental goals. According to completion consultants and water management experts, this reality has supported technological innovations that enable operators to transform more produced water into effective completion fluids.
“It is becoming easier to justify completing wells with produced water,” assesses Dustin Aro, vice president of operations and co-founder of the consulting firm Precision Petroleum Solutions. “The vast majority of unconventional completions rely on slickwater to stimulate the reservoir. Chemical providers have met the challenge of high chloride source water by developing robust friction reducers that limit produced water’s impact on pumping rates. This lets us deploy sufficient horsepower without major changes in well construction or stage spacing.” By Colter Cookson, American Oil and Gas Reporter