Producing Solutions: Texas Oil and Gas Industry’s Responsible Water Management

Wed, May 01, 2024

Operators in the Permian Basin are producing oil and gas in the cleanest, most sustainable way possible. Energy producers across the region invest in industry-leading practices and technological innovations to protect our shared environment. As a result, Texas boasts some of the most comprehensive and robust water management practices globally.

Texas accounts for roughly 40% of total U.S. oil production and 32% of total U.S. natural gas production. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) predicts that U.S. energy consumption will grow up to 15% by 2050, with much of this demand supplied by Texas’ Permian Basin. As energy demand continues to surge, understanding the oil and gas industry’s water management and resource preservation methods will be critical.

To mitigate the environmental impacts of oil and natural gas production, Permian Basin producers are proactively seeking solutions to reduce fresh water use across the energy value chain. In fact, 11 million of the 14 million barrels of the water produced in the Permian are recycled—reducing reliance on freshwater sources.

Currently, oil and gas extraction constitutes roughly 2% of the state’s total water consumption— irrigated agriculture is the biggest consumer of water in Texas, while municipalities and manufacturing use roughly 25% and 10% of the state’s available water supply, respectively.

The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) is investing in beneficial water reuse pilot programs to accelerate sustainable recycling and reuse options in the oil and gas industry. Advancements in water recycling and treatment have given way to beneficial reuse opportunities across various supply chains and industries including, emergency fire control efforts, power generation and crop irrigation, all of which mitigate fresh water use. “This framework opens up the potential to use treated produced water in ways that have never been seen before in Texas, which is a win-win for conserving water resources, and protecting the environment and Texans,” explained RRC Executive Director Wei Wang.

Texas’ oil and natural gas operators are investing in industry-leading innovations and advancements to further minimize the environmental impact of energy production. Last year, more than 99% of Chevron’s Permian Basin water demand was met using brackish groundwater and produced water that was recycled. In 2022, Ovintiv achieved 100% recycled water usage for completions in Midland and Martin counties, while ConocoPhillips had 52% of its water use sourced from recycled produced water. Together, companies across the Permian Basin are setting global standards for responsible water management, and advocating for beneficial reuse opportunities for produced water throughout the energy market.

Permian Basin operators’ dedication to responsible water management underscores that resource conservation and increased energy production are not mutually exclusive. Texans rely on, and expect, affordable, reliable energy to power not only their everyday, but the various businesses and industries that support a strong Texas economy. Producers are dedicated to responsibly managing produced water as part of their wider effort to secure energy for Texans, the nation and global allies.

These collective efforts underscore the industry's commitment to protecting our shared environment and safeguarding the well-being of the communities where operators live and work. The bottom line is, by prioritizing water reuse and recycling, the oil and gas sector is both reducing its freshwater consumption and demonstrating that sustainable and abundant production can be achieved.