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Introduction to Water in Oil & Gas

The water and energy sectors, though commonly considered separately for the purposes of reporting and analysis, are becoming more intertwined. Growing water demand with global population expansion requires more energy to treat and transfer water. Likewise, emerging energy development technologies, both in oil and gas production and refining, are becoming increasingly water-intensive. Produced fluids, or the naturally-occurring brine from deep in the Earth that comes to the surface with hydrocarbons during production, remains a challenge for operators in terms of treatment and disposal. Each oil well produces anywhere from 0.5 to 10 or more times more water than it does hydrocarbons. Also, climate change affects global water availability, which in turn affects the water available for energy development.

Why It Matters

The effective management of both energy and water resources is key to a sustainable future. Balancing the water needs of the energy industry with those of other demands including industrial use, irrigation, power generation and municipal and private supplies that withdraw water from the hydrologic cycle remains one of the grand challenges.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the connection between water and energy
  • Recognize the uses of water in various sectors
  • Identify typical water jurisdictions and water rights and how they may differ geographically
  • Describe trends in water consumption, specifically how water is used in power generation
  • Identify the differences between power generation technologies
  • Describe some of the factors and obstacles related to sourcing water for oil and gas operations
  • Explain how natural event, such as floods and drought, affect oil and gas operations
  • Describe both how and in what quantity water is used, treated, recycled or disposed of in oil and gas operations, citing examples from recent unconventional plays

Images: “Power Plant” by reolal via