Potential for the Reclamation of Water Produced by US Oil Fields
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It is estimated that approximately 10 barrels of water are produced for every barrel of oil. The handling and disposal of this “produced water” represents the single greatest environmental barrier for such operations especially due to its high salt content and the presence of oil and grease. Current management options include a variety of disposal methods, but with much potential to increase the percentage dedicated to reuse. The objective of this project is to evaluate whether produced water can be a practical water resource in terms of the quantity available, technology options for treatment and cost-effectiveness of those options. The analysis also demonstrates overall which states could benefit most from this water resource. The results indicate that as the quality of the water is highly specific to each well site, the best treatment and most cost-effective options are also as specific. Knowing the intended use of the water is essential to determine which combination of treatment technologies to utilize as water quality criteria differ for each use. In particular, utilizing the water as a direct saline water use in thermoelectric power generation could be a viable option requiring less treatment. Even though the overall quantity available is 16-21 billion barrels annually, these resources represent only a small percentage of total US water use. But they could yield a valuable offset for a particular, very specific water use within a given state. However, along with the issues of best intended use and cost, the problem of distribution must be overcome before produced water can truly be a practical water resource. A number of states, namely Texas, have a great potential to increase their reuse of this alternative water resource and are already in critical need of water due to climate and increasing populations.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
Subjectproduced water, reclamation, oil
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