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Texas Alliance publishes produced water white paper

The paper contains 10 recommendations to ensure sustainable management practices, including water recycling and beneficial reuse.

On September 16, the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, an association representing local oil & gas industry interests, launched a white paper presenting data and policy information regarding produced water in Texas.

The document is titled Sustainable Produced Water Policy, Regulatory Framework, and Management in the Texas Oil and Natural Gas Industry: 2019 and Beyond and contains 10 recommendations to ensure sustainable management practices, including water recycling and beneficial reuse. The organization’s president and chief of staff, John Tintera, co-authored the paper along with consultants Blythe Lyons and Kylie Wright.

One of the paper’s recommendations is for Texas to seek delegation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the discharge of produced water to surface water under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Karr Ingham, the Texas Alliance’s acting executive vice-president and economist, told Water in Oil that most of the organization’s members would rather deal with a Texas agency than the Environmental Protection Agency regarding such issues.

“We just prefer to have Texans regulated by Texans,” Ingham said, adding that regulatory oversight tailored to the state’s unique circumstances was preferred over the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the federal government.

The Texas Railroad Commission had the authority to grant NPDES permits, but state legislation passed in June transferred oversight of oil and gas effluent discharges to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). As such, the TCEQ must apply for delegation of authority for the federal program. The application deadline is September 1, 2021, but the TCEQ plans to apply by May 31, 2021. If the EPA determines the application to be complete, it could approve or deny the request within 90 days.

Another critical point is the development of incentives to lower produced water treatment costs, which would lead to higher recycle rates and even beneficial reuse of produced water. Both could help the state conserve water resources.

In the previous legislative session, the Texas Alliance supported HB 2545, which would have provided tax credits for desalters, including those handling produced water. Had it passed, the legislation would have encouraged recycling. Ingham says that the organization will continue its efforts to push for similar incentives in future sessions.

The paper also calls for the collection and publication of standardized produced water data, which is needed to track volumes and water production activity, as well as for communicating the value of produced water and the opportunities recycling represents.

“Our interest moving forward is to flesh out what the best mechanisms are for collecting and publishing that data,” Ingham said. He cautioned that collection on a voluntary basis or through legal obligation could lead to different outcomes.

“We do want to see better data on produced water issues and we want to develop that in a way that is not onerous to oil and gas operators or midstream operators – in a way that is not costly to them. What we really don’t want to happen is for any tax regime to be attached to that,” he explained.

The white paper and a complete list of recommendations can be accessed here.

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