Permian Basin: Paving the Way for Water Management

Wed, September 27, 2023

The oil and gas sector has undergone significant advancements in water management practices, particularly in the prolific Permian Basin, the largest oil and gas producing region in the United States. As demand for energy continues to rise, understanding the industry's commitment to sustainable water management and resource preservation is crucial.


While oil and gas production in Texas uses water as part of the extraction process—which, as part of mining activities for the state, accounts for approximately 2% of total water consumption—a popular misperception is that it is the most water-intensive sector in the economy. However, other industries in the state, such as agriculture and the manufacturing industries, utilize even more water for its processes. In New Mexico, like in Texas, the most water-intensive businesses are closely related to the agricultural industry, which uses more than 80% of the state's fresh water resources.


However, in response to increased water demand and an increased focus on environmental impact, the Permian Basin's oil and gas industry has taken a proactive approach to water management. Reusing and recycling produced water has become common practice in recent years, and currently 78% of produced water in the Permian Basin is reused by operators, reducing the use of freshwater supplies.


Last year, the Texas Produced Water Consortium (TPWC) reported to Texas legislators that an estimated 14 million barrels of produced water a day are coming from both the Delaware and Midland basins, and of which 11 million barrels is reused by the industry. In addition, there are a variety of other potential re-uses for produced water and waste water including, fire control, power generation, vehicle and equipment washing, non-edible crop irrigation and carbon capture.


Some major players are leading the industry in sustainable water management in the industry. Apache, for instance, is developing flow-back and produced water treatment processes and facilities, reducing the company’s needs for freshwater for operations and cutting down associated truck traffic in the Permian Basin. Ovintiv also works diligently to conserve freshwater, using 100% recycled water for all completions operations in Midland and Martin Counties in 2022. Through ongoing efforts to expand water reuse infrastructure, EOG Resources sourced 46% of the water used in the company's operations last year from reused water, up from 34% in 2019. Finally, ExxonMobil in 2021 implemented a comprehensive water management roadmap for the next decade of Permian development, identifying site-specific strategies to manage water-related risks and increase the availability and quality of water in the region. As a result of these efforts, ExxonMobil utilizes only recycled or brackish water sources for their Permian hydraulic fracturing operations.


These collective efforts highlight the industry's dedication to protecting the community and the environment. While fracking is a water-intensive process, the widespread adoption of reusing and recycling produced water is and will continue to reduce the industry’s consumption of freshwater resources. The Permian Basin's dedication to responsible water management serves as an example for all industries, demonstrating that resource conservation and innovation can pave the way to a more sustainable future.