Exploration and production (E&P) companies, particularly in West Texas, appear to be in a bit of a conundrum. Amid an increase in seismic activity related to Lower 48 development, producers stand to lose nearly half of their disposal capacity in key basins at the same time the amount of water they are leaving untreated is set to rise.

produced water graph

A recent analysis by Rystad Energy found that the amount of treated water in U.S. onshore oilfields rose to 1.9 billion barrels in 2021, up from 1.6 billion in 2020. Over the next five years, Rystad expects treated water volumes to fluctuate from 2-2.2 billion barrels.

When the water is treated, saltwater disposal (SWD) that is injected underground, which has been linked to greater earthquake activity, is avoided.

“However, what the expected...