KINGFISHER — Oil and natural gas operations are heavily water-dependent, forcing producers to constantly look for new and better ways to find, use and conserve water.
Companies require some water during the drilling process, but the main water draw is hydraulic fracturing. A typical modern, horizontal well in Kingfisher County requires about 17 million gallons of water for fracking operations.
Three main sources of water are used by the oil and natural gas industry.
Companies can receive permits from the state to use freshwater from lakes, creeks, ponds and water wells. Freshwater is easiest to use, but regulators encourage the industry to find alternatives because of the limited availability of freshwater resources, especially when there is little rainfall.
After the water is pumped into the well as part of hydraulic fracturing operations, much of the water mixed with sand and chemicals returns to the surface through the well and is recovered by the producer and is known as flowback. That water typically is recovered over the first several days or weeks of a new well’s production.
Oil and natural gas wells also recover naturally occurring ancient seawater that is trapped deep underground along with the oil and natural gas producers are seeking. This produced water typically contains many times the salt content of modern oceans and often includes other minerals and substances. Produced water is recovered from the well along with oil and natural gas throughout the life of the well, with the well often yielding many times more water than oil and natural gas.
Companies increasingly are cleaning much of their produced water and using it to offset some of their freshwater needs.
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