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Research Report

Produced Water:: Asset or Waste?

Blythe Lyons
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2014
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 40
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. [iv]-[v])
    Frederick Kempe

    The outlook for US oil and gas production impacts the United States’ geopolitical strategy. On the domestic front, realization of the potential for self-sufficiency, if not outright independence, will depend on public acceptance. This acceptance, in turn, will be predicated on industry’s success in developing integrated and sustainable water management practices. Water is key to unleashing domestic energy resources, especially the “unconventionals.”

    This report is one of several in the Council’s Energy and Water Nexus Initiative series. The three major goals of this initiative are to promote sustainable policies with common sense recommendations, clarify the terms of the debate with...

  2. (pp. 1-1)

    US national security is enhanced by energy security. The United States is enjoying a unique opportunity to bolster its energy security by increasing domestic production of oil and gas resources. The recent explosion in domestic unconventional production will allow an expanded bandwidth of US responses to the turmoil in the Middle East and Europe. If further exploited, the move toward energy self-sufficiency also gives the United States a cushion to reassess its global strategic policies. Expanding the domestic resource base further provides the United States with an industrial advantage in global commerce.

    This report focuses on some of the water-related...

  3. (pp. 2-5)

    The National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 report identifies seven global trends, shown in table 1, that will greatly influence world events; four of the seven directly pertain to the importance of addressing water issues.¹

    The water-related trends that will shape global development in the future include:

    growth of the middle class that will demand more electricity and food, which will in turn require more water and more efficient use of the water already available;

    urbanization that will increase base load electricity demands for transportation, municipal needs, and heating and cooling, which requires water for fuels extraction and power plant...

  4. (pp. 6-11)

    This section presents key insights from the two-day workshop presentations and discussions. The information which supports these insights is summarized in the appendix.⁵ The reader is encouraged to access the workshop presentations for additional information.⁶

    The outlook for oil and gas production promises considerable growth, with most of the growth in the near-term expected from unconventional shale plays.⁷ The tremendous potential for unconventional production rests on public acceptance, which in turn will depend on the extent to which concerns over water usage can be addressed to the public’s satisfaction.

    It is increasingly clear that produced water volumes will grow with...

  5. (pp. 12-15)

    While treatment of produced water ultimately depends on economic and site-specific considerations, industry and government can join together to find common ground on policies that encourage recycling and reuse. The workshop participants offer these following recommendations for federal government action, a revised regulatory approach to water management, changes in state policies, and suggested industry approaches.

    Apart from federal rule making (addressed below), there are functions that federal government agencies are well suited to do, including data collection, convening industry-government working groups, funding research, and supporting technology development. The workshop participants recognize that as of the time of writing this report,...

  6. (pp. 16-16)

    The Atlantic Council’s produced water workshop moved the conversation forward with its conclusion that produced water is not always a waste but an increasingly valuable asset. Multiple challenges were identified. The industry is looking for ways to reduce the amount of freshwater necessary for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing processes; to find cost-effective ways to treat produced water; to cut water transport and storage costs; to meet evolving and potentially prohibitive environmental and regulatory requirements; and to satisfy the public’s desire for sustainable water use in their communities. Over time there will be growing opportunities and increasing need to use...