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Chart of the month

Increased produced water recycling and a lack of regulations and best practices around infrastructure construction may be posing challenges in hydrocarbons-producing areas.

Center for Western Priorities, state agencies

This month’s chart comes from research published by the Center for Western Priorities, a non-profit focused on conservation and energy issues in the western US. The chart shows the total reported volumes of produced water spilled in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, the three top-producing states in the Mountain West region.

According to data taken from state regulatory agencies, overall spill volumes in 2019 grew in both Colorado and New Mexico but declined in Wyoming. Colorado saw the largest jump in produced water spilled, with a 122% increase compared to volumes reported in 2018. The year-over-year change was 11% in New Mexico, which has the largest hydrocarbons and produced water output among those three states.

Water in Oil asked on social media what industry players thought could be driving an uptick in spills in some areas and received several responses. Some observers posited that greater oilfield reuse might be contributing to this increase, as more storage and transportation is now taking place, especially in states such as New Mexico. Another said that some inexperienced teams were focusing on building water infrastructure cheaply and quickly rather than on environmental risk mitigation.

Respondents also offered insight into how produced water spills could be prevented. The incorporation of automation technology would help reduce incidents related to human error. Some noted the lack of best practices and establishment of regulations around construction, something which is expected to soon be addressed by state and/or federal agencies.

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