New Realities Change the Face of Frac Water Use

Reusing produced water for frac jobs can improve production and ease the need for freshwater supplies, while also reducing demand for disposal wells. 

XRI Holdings onsite lab testing of treated produced and recycled water. (Source: XRI Holdings)

Since the advent of large-scale hydraulic fracturing in unconventional plays, the use of water in that process has been subject to study—and to change.

Producers searching for optimal combinations of sand and water to prop open tight shales have morphed from using clean water with hard, large mesh white sands from the upper Midwest to using very slightly treated produced water with locally obtained brown sand.

Water issues have come to the forefront as saltwater disposal wells (SWD) are associated with anthropogenic tremors as high as 4.5 in the Permian Basin (December 2021) and 5.8 in Oklahoma (September 2016), leading regulators to restrict SWD volumes in those and other areas. Additionally, concerns about the oil industry competing with agriculture and municipalities over diminishing freshwater reserves have pushed producers toward solving two problems at once by reusing produced water for fracking.

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