How is the company working to conserve and preserve water?

Testing treated water PH and alkalinity
​During drilling activities, our objective is to protect groundwater and to recycle and reuse water if possible. We adhere to strict well integrity procedures and safe water management methods to isolate and protect freshwater sources. And we develop practices that conserve and protect freshwater resources and enhance the efficiency of non-fresh water usage at our facilities.

We also continuously strive to minimize our environmental impact, as evidenced by our recent efforts in the arid Permian Basin of Texas.

Water is scarce and rain is rare in the area. The Permian Basin faces severe fresh water shortages. So ConocoPhillips scientists and engineers designed a water management solution that will minimize operational impact on the limited water resources. In the basin, water wells deliver insufficient amounts of low quality water. Yet finding good-quality source water is critical for efficient hydrocarbon production. The good news is that Permian formations typically produce at a high “water cut” – meaning that up to 90% of the water used in completions is returned to the surface during production.

In late 2011, we recycled and treated approximately 60,000 barrels of produced water and used as “engineered frack water” in operations. This success set the stage for what was to come: in 2013 Water Solutions Staff Process Engineer Ramesh Sharma and his team partnered with Permian Basin Completions Engineer Austin Shields and his team to launch a 2-well water reuse field pilot in the Permian Basin.
“To start, we chose vertical wells in a conventional reservoir because they have a simpler completion and involve lower risk,” said Sharma, who has served as project manager of the 3 field pilots to date. “We developed a fit-for-purpose treatment process that matched the recycled water to the reservoir for the greatest compatibility with the frack fluid.”

The teams stated a shared goal: to use 250,000 barrels of non-fresh or recycled produced water in 2014. They exceeded their goal, recycling more than 300,000 barrels.

Based on that initial success, the team used 100% recycled produced water for the entire 13-well completions program in 2014. It was a success, minimizing truck traffic and reducing fresh water usage.

Water Solutions Manager Samer Adham and his team in Houston, Bartlesville and Doha were tasked with designing a water treatment plan for the project. “We learned that fracking with salt water doesn’t negatively impact the formation, so we didn’t have to desalinate the water,” said Adham. “But we did need to remove specific constituents, starting with hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Later on in the project we started treating to remove iron.”

These projects represent the first successful large scale produced water reuse in the company’s U.S.  Lower 48 operations. Expanded use of this technology, combined with other responsible water management practices, will play a vital role in future development.

“It’s a great example of ConocoPhillips’ water sustainability efforts. Using recycled produced water is good for the local stakeholders, the company reputation and the environment – and it’s cheaper than what we’re currently doing. We want our legacy to be that we left shallow water resources in the ground,” said Rob Clark, a ConocoPhillips completions manager.