Skip to comments.Legislators tackle water use in Texas oil fields
Posted on 02/14/2013 5:08:00 AM PST by thackney
A climate scientist warned legislators Wednesday that Texas summers are likely to get longer and drier, setting the stage for a hearing on how oil and gas producers use water in a state that remains in varying stages of drought.
Freshwater is going to be more scarce, Gerald North, professor of atmospheric science and oceanography at Texas A&M University, told members of the energy resources and natural resources committees, recommending they prepare for a future with more storms on the magnitude of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and more droughts similar to the one in 2011.
Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, chairman of the energy resources committee, acknowledged that the current oil drilling boom has been good for the Texas economy but said the Legislature cant ignore public concerns over water use.
We have to make sure we are using the least amount of freshwater we can, he told Cody Pomeroy, general counsel for the Texas Oil and Gas Association, who said 21 percent of water used by drillers now is brackish or recycled water.
The industry accounts for about 1 percent of total water use in the state, Pomeroy said.
Agriculture is the single largest user of water in Texas.
Stephen Jester, an environmental engineer at ConocoPhillips, said his company has cut freshwater use in the Eagle Ford Shale by 45 percent over the past three years, although he acknowledged the costs associated with recycling water continue to make it a challenge.
There are always two questions we hear, he said. What are you doing to get more trucks off the road, and what are you doing to use less freshwater?
Representatives from other companies offered similar stories.
Michael Dunkel, director of sustainable development at Pioneer Natural Resources Co., said his company is working to reduce evaporation.
Its not glamorous, but it might work better, he said.
Pioneer, like other producers, now uses brackish water instead of freshwater to fracture wells when it can.
But brackish water isnt available in all parts of the state and Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, noted that several cities in West Texas are considering brackish water as a source of drinking water.
Recycling could be one solution, but Brent Halldorson, chief operating officer of Fountain Quail Water Management and one of the leaders of the fledgling Texas Water Recycling Association, said he opposes requiring drillers to use recycled water.
Halldorson instead said he supports tax incentives; he said an association task force is working on a proposal.
In the meantime, representatives of several companies said they continue to make progress.
Dunkel said Pioneer expects to recycle 10,000 barrels of water a day by the end of the year in the Permian Basin.
Thats going to cost us money, but its a first step, he said.
Shooting my mouth off without any knowledge of the subject at hand, but I was thinking that perhaps these companies could drill for the water they need since they have equipment for deep drilling....
Water rights are not automatically given with an oil/gas lease.
Also in a dry climate with many leases on large ranches, like West and South Texas, those water aquifers are closely guarded. In the old days, some ranchers literally killed people over water rights and access in some of these areas.
It is not unusual for an Eagle Ford well to use 5 million gallons to complete with hydraulic fracturing. Other tight formations like shale in the Permian Basin can take similar amounts.
Last year there were over 15,000 wells drilled in Texas. I believe most of them were shale / tight formation requiring hydraulic fracturing to complete.
Okay, thank you for that info.