With produced water from Texas oil and natural gas wells expected to top an estimated 15 billion-plus barrels a year by 2023 from 8.5 billion in 2017, the state’s operators have stepped up with recommendations to economically and sustainably manage the projected increases.

A key goal of the white paper, according to the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers (TAEP), "is to offer suggestions that could improve the handling of produced water and encourage changes to Texas' policy and regulatory framework that will encourage the safe and economic use of treated produced water outside the oil and gas fields in the coming years."

The state has to “simultaneously source large amounts of water for fracturing operations in water stressed areas, while at the same time managing millions of gallons of produced water from onshore unconventional operations,” TAEB noted. “Water demand for fracturing operations will continue to increase due to the growing numbers of wells drilled and completed coupled with the concurrent increase in fracturing fluid proppant intensity, well lateral lengths and well design improvements.

“Given this large volume of water, it is important to recall the context,” as “the estimated statewide water use by the entire mining/oil and gas sector remains less than 1% of all water used annually in Texas.”

The industry group is recommending a push to ensure the state maintains jurisdiction over pipelines, increases interstate/association coordination on legislative policy and has authority over the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

In addition, TAEB recommended preparing a “roadmap” to beneficially reuse produced water outside the oil and gas industry. IT also wants “incentive mechanisms” developed to lower treatment costs. Collecting and providing public access to better produced water data also is a goal.

“Data on current produced water treatment and recycle and reuse volumes in Texas are variable and difficult to certify,” the TAEB’s white paper noted. “Interviews revealed some operators are currently using over 80% produced water to fracture new wells, while others have made it a priority to reuse 100% produced water.

“Other information sources indicate that recycle and reuse comprises such a small portion of the Texas water management market (less than 1-5%) as to be negligible in the grand scheme of water handling.”

According to TAEB, the Groundwater Protection Council is estimating water reuse by operators “exceeds 10% in the Permian Basin, but is negligible in the Haynesville Basin and is slightly over 1% in the Eagle Ford Basin.

“Regardless of the exact percentage, the data point to consistent and growing uses of treated produced water in oil and gas operations. Produced water recycle and reuse is likely to increase as the midstream industry matures and injection capacity is unable to keep pace with production.”