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Produced water research consortium formed in New Mexico

A produced water research consortium has been set up in New Mexico to facilitate rulemaking for beneficial reuse projects

Following recent legislation, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) have established the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium (NM-PWRC). The July 1st implementation of House Bill 546, also known as the Produced Water Act, authorizes the NMED to create regulations for treated produced water applications outside the oil & gas industry.

Rebecca Roose, the NMED’s Water Protection Division director, explained to Water in Oil that critical science and technology gaps need to be filled before the state agency can begin writing regulations.

“The partnership with NMSU is an excellent fit for what we need to do,” Roose said. “[It will] leverage state technical experts and researchers, leverage interest from active oil & gas producers in the state and provide New Mexico-specific research that we as a regulatory agency can confidently rely on to ultimately develop regulations pursuant to the Produced Water Act.”

To be coordinated by the university through its Office of Strategic Initiatives within the Office of the Chancellor, the NM-PWRC will include corporate, academic and nongovernmental organization (NGO) members.

NMSU is soliciting nominations to fill about 25 seats on the consortium’s Technical Research Committee by mid-November. That committee will include representatives of academia, the oil & gas industry, water midstream sector, NGOs and government agencies. The committee will evaluate projects, funding requests and research findings based on priorities determined by program director Michael Hightower with the guidance of the NMSU Advisory Council.

“The overarching goal is to advance the science and technology for produced water use and treatment. Specifically, we plan to work on the characterization of produced water quality in the Permian Basin and San Juan Basin in New Mexico,” Pei Xu, NM-PWRC’s associate research and technology director, told Water in Oil. She added that researchers would also work to develop treatment technologies, including ones that have low carbon and energy intensities.

The research will be funded through sponsor contributions and annual membership fees. According to Patricia Sullivan, NMSU’s director of strategic initiatives, the consortium is expected to require at least $6 million over the next three years. NGL Water Solutions has already pledged $1 million to the NM-PWRC.

The quick pace at which the consortium is coming together reflects the urgent need for new solutions to manage growing produced water volumes in the Permian Basin. “We have to have these things in operation and ready to go,” Hightower told Water in Oil. “We can’t wait five years because in five years we’re going to be inundated with water that we don’t know what to do with.”

However, NMED secretary James Kenney has emphasized that there is no set timeline for implementing policies and regulations. “We’re going to take our time and were going to do this in a way that is scientific and protective of public health and the environment. Our timeline is to get it right,” he said during an October event for the NM-PWRC at NMSU’s Las Cruces campus.

As a next step, the NMED will engage the public on the issue of produced water. Outreach meetings began on October 15 and will continue through November. A schedule of the remaining planned meetings can be found below. More information on the consortium and how you could become involved can be found here.

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