Some key takeaways from Sourcewater’s webinar “Finding and evaluating the best SWD sites”, held for the PWS community on September 22.
During this month’s PWS webinar, Sourcewater director of geoscience Casee Lemons spoke about the crucial considerations that should be made when selecting locations for saltwater disposal well (SWD) sites and the potential consequences of using a limited amount of crucial information.
1. Location is everything
SWD operators have quite a checklist to get through when deciding where to drill wells – sites should be set up near existing infrastructure, which is an indication of current demand – as well as in areas that will continue to see adequate water flows into the future. Furthermore, not only do SWD operators have to consider the surface location of their wells, but also the geological formation into which they aim to inject produced water. People tend to follow trends when considering where to drill new wells and which injection zones to target. Unfortunately, this bad habit can result in permitting delays, underperforming assets and money loss.
2. Pressure is a key piece of the revenue puzzle
Injection and formation pressures can have a big impact on both commercial SWD businesses and producer-owned disposal operations. Low injection pressures can either be stipulated in disposal permits (for example only 0.25 psi/ft in the Delaware Mountain Group versus 0.5 psi/ft in the rest of Texas), or be the result of formation overpressurization. Either way, the lower the injection pressure, the longer it takes to pump volumes into a well, which can potentially cut into volumes pumped and therefore reduce revenue. For wells that are unable to reach permitted pressures, one solution is to use high-power pumps, which of course would eat into profits.
3. Regulator perception is business reality
Though there has not been a scientific consensus that induced seismicity in the Delaware Basin is caused by disposal operations, regulators are still approaching with caution. The Texas Railroad Commission has already implemented new guidelines for assessing new SWD permits which can restrict disposal operations in seismically active areas. In New Mexico, certain formations have been made off-limits altogether. Obviously, the idea that disposal via SWDs might be linked to seismicity has a very real impact on disposal-related activities and business.
4. Time is money
Issues with all of the above – location, injection zone, formation and injection pressure, seismicity – have the potential to drag out the permit approval process, which is already pretty lengthy. If SWD operators choose their location poorly, they could end up undergoing an extended seismic review or going to court over protested applications. Both scenarios will add months to the process and result in money loss. Pressure issues at commercial SWD wells can lead to longer wait times for water hauling trucks that need to unload, causing producers’ fees to rise. The situation can even lead SWD operators to lose clients. If you would like to access the complete webinar recording and slide deck, click here.