Water Management Vital for Oil and Gas Industry

By Adam Wilson 7 May 2014

The increasing global scarcity of water means more companies need to see and begin treating water as an asset, said Emmanuel Garland, environmental expert with Total, at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

“Water is already a crucial issue and will shape the future,” he said. “Water is a need before being a waste.”

Garland spoke at a topical luncheon titled “Water Management—Change of Paradigm: Water as an Asset” on Tuesday.

Globally, 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, Garland said, “and climate change will probably make it even worse in the future.”

As the global need for energy increases, oil and gas companies will continue to expand operations to meet this demand. And “production of oil and gas requires … huge quantities of water,” Garland said.

“Consequently,” he said, “it is the responsibility of the oil and gas industry to ensure that water is adequately considered … in the decisions of the companies.” The industry’s handling of this responsibility—its ability to develop innovative means to reduce water uptake and maximize use and recycling—could affect companies’ social license to operate, he said.

As responsible users of clean water for oil and gas production, companies need to work on reducing the need for clean water in their operations, Garland said, adding, “That’s a real challenge.”

In addition to reducing the need for clean water, companies also need to examine how they handle the water produced by oil and gas production operations. “Handling water in a responsible manner is not only good business,” he said, “it is critical for our future.”

The water produced from wells must be treated before it is disposed, and “treatment has been designed for many years for disposal in the environment,” Garland said. Many techniques exist for treating this produced water; Garland mentioned that there are at least 80 proven techniques. The number of proven techniques, he pointed out, shows that no single technique works for every situation.

“The move today is now to treat for reuse and not to treat only for disposal,” he said. “If you can reuse it, that’s much, much better.”

Adam Wilson is the Special Publications Editor for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.