Task Force Releases Report on Wastewater Disposal Alternatives

An Oklahoma water task force recently released a report offering alternatives for wastewater disposal from oil and gas operations in the state, according to a press release issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board on Wednesday.

The 17-member Oklahoma’s Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group – formed by Governor Mary Fallin in 2015 – was charged to study and recommend how water produced in oil and natural gas operations may be recycled as part of an effort to promote water supply reliability and combat drought.

Through its analysis, the group determined that reusing wastewater in drilling operations would provide the greatest cost-effective option for energy companies. It recommended treating the water and using it in other industrial operations. The group also identified a few barriers including a shortage of pipelines to transport the wastewater, divergent law regarding wastewater ownership and difficulty in establishing quality standards for the treated water.

“This report is an important first step into the investigation of produced water use,” said Michael Teague, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment. “It will serve as an important guide as we continue further detailed research of these alternatives that will undoubtedly be the next critical steps in this ongoing effort.”

State regulators and researchers targeted wastewater injections as the leading reason for a sharp increase in Oklahoma seismicity. It was reported that nearly 1.5 billion barrels of wastewater was injected in Oklahoma during 2014. In March of 2015, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued an earthquake response directive covering 347 wells in the Arbuckle formation ultimately resulting in a limit on the volume of injected wastewater. The state has been researching ways to recycle the water for drilling operations and agricultural irrigation.

The 266-page report may be viewed here.