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As Scarcity Hits, Water Tech Flows In

Photo courtesy of Chip MacLaughlin.
A freshwater “frac pit” in Glasscock County, south of Garden City, Texas. Fresh water remains the main source for hydraulic fracturing fluids; however, companies are increasingly turning to other water sources to support the rapidly growing shale fields in the Permian Basin.

Although the oil and gas boom in the United States owes much of its success to the abundance of cheap sources of fresh water, the status quo is beginning to change. Groundwater remains the main source of water for most onshore exploration and production companies; however, they are increasingly investing in produced and flowback water-­treatment technologies. Many of the same companies are also turning to brackish water sources in places where freshwater aquifers are becoming depleted, such as the Permian Basin that spans west Texas and eastern New Mexico. Brackish water, sometimes called fossil water, has less salt content than seawater, making it cheaper to treat, and is typically found in the same areas where hydrocarbons are developed.

The Fasken Oil and Ranch in Midland, Texas, relies on produced-water recycling and brackish water for nearly all of its oil and gas operations at its primary operating area. In August, a larger operator in the area called to buy produced water from Fasken, said Jimmy Davis, operations manager at the family-owned oil company.

The friendly request exemplifies the increasingly desperate water situation that oil companies are facing in the Permian Basin, one of the most productive onshore area in North America. “They are in a fix for water,” Davis said. “I am starting to hear that over and over. What we are doing out here as an industry is using water to frac, and we are in a drought-stricken area so you have to find other means than fresh water to meet those needs.”

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As Scarcity Hits, Water Tech Flows In

Trent Jacobs, JPT Technology Writer

01 October 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 10

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