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Re-use of Produced Water – Obstacles and Issues

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Treatment of produced water for re-use, instead of re-injection is driven by economic and environmental incentives realized by the oil and gas industry. Federal and state regulations have been established to protect the environment from improper disposal of this waste water. More than three billion tons of saline wastewater are generated every year during the exploration and production of oil and gas in the United States (API, 1987). This co-produced water contains a number of pollutants, including dispersed and dissolved hydrocarbons, dissolved salts and metals. The toxicity of this water is due, in large part, to the presence of oil and grease and hazardous aromatic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX). Removal and destruction of BTEX compounds from produced water has been demonstrated by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, New Mexico Tech University and Los Alamos National Laboratories (Katz, et al., 2003). One possible treatment process being considered is a surfactant modified zeolite/vapor phase biofilter (SMZ/VPB) system which can be used in conjunction with other more conventional processes to reduce the organic content of produced waters. Evaluation of the surfactant modified zeolite and vapor phase biofilter process for treatment of produced waters extracted during oil and gas exploration and production must include cost analyses and investigations into regulatory issues regarding disposal of the treated water. A complete economic evaluation for treatment of varying influent flow rates, corresponding to single well and average and large centralized collection sites has been completed and compared to current disposal costs incurred by regional producers in the western United States. These comparisons indicate the SMZ/VPB process provides an inexpensive method for the removal and destruction of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) from produced waters Lawmakers have recognized the potential for re-use of produced water as noted by the recent passage of Senate Bill 313 in the 2004 New Mexico Legislature which increased the options for produced water disposal in the state. New Mexico House Bill 388 in 2002 established a tax credit for treating produced water and delivering it to the Pecos River. Regulatory issues and targeted end-use of treated produced water determine the extent of treatment required. Water quality criteria are set by federal and state agencies and must be met for disposal or re-use of the treated water. Specific requirements for discharge to surface waters and re-use in the power, oil and gas and agriculture industries are presented.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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