RRC rolls out framework for pilot studies to recycle produced water

AUSTIN The Railroad Commission has created a framework for a pilot program that could greatly enhance environmental protection in Texas with the potential to recycle produced water safely and economically, according to a Wednesday news release.

Produced water is a byproduct of what comes to the surface during oil and gas production, and the produced water recycling framework will provide a regulatory program for operators to assess the effectiveness and the suitability of applying treated produced water for beneficial purposes.

Operators will apply for authorization to conduct pilot studies, and RRC will issue a permit or letter of authorization. They would compile data of how treated produced water can be reused in certain activities that are safe and protective of human health and the environment.

Ultimately, the potential exists to reduce the amount of produced water that gets injected back into the ground, which can help reduce incidents of seismicity, as well as developing a potential water source for above ground use.

“This is another example of how we stay at the forefront of our critical mission of protecting public safety and the environment while we regulate an industry that is crucial to the state’s economy,” said Wei Wang, RRC Executive Director, in the release. “This framework opens up the potential to use produced water in ways that have never been seen before in Texas, which is a win-win for the oil and gas industry, the environment and Texans.”

The Commission will focus attention on the effectiveness of treatment technologies and examine proper methods for gathering, storing, treating, testing, and documenting how treated water quality evolves and is controlled in each pilot facility. Treated fluid will not be allowed to be discharged to surface water during the pilot studies.

The produced water recycling framework is a starting point and will evolve over time in collaboration with the work of others such as the academic community, consortia, industry, and community leaders. Treated fluid will not be allowed to be discharged to surface water during the pilot studies.

The information obtained by these pilot studies can be used to develop more focused regulation on produced water recycling and help guide future legislation.

A copy of the framework can be found on the RRC website.