60 Million Barrels of Waste Water Daily


The biggest output of the U.S. oil and gas industry is not oil or gas but dirty water. Every day, U.S. oil and gas producers bring to the surface 60 million barrels of waste water, with a salt content up to 20 times higher than sea water and laced with hazardous chemicals. For the most part, they dispose of it safely, as required by federal and state laws. The average oil well produces 7.6 barrels of water for every barrel of crude. The water/oil ratio can rise to as much as 24:1 or even 42:1 in states like Florida and Illinois. On average, 88 percent of the material brought to the surface from an oil well is water, rising to 98 percent for wells nearing the end of their productive lives.

Produced water is the largest volume by-product or waste stream associated with oil and gas exploration and production. The cost of managing such a large volume of water is a key consideration to oil and gas producers. The salt content of produced water can be 20 times higher than sea water, and it contains traces of the hydrocarbons that it was found alongside, including chemicals harmful to human health such as benzene. Of the 58 million barrels of waste water produced every day, roughly half (29 million barrels) is re-injected into oil and gas bearing formations to help maintain pressure and enhance ultimate oil recovery. Another 20 million barrels are injected into non-hydrocarbon formations for disposal.

To prevent waste migrating into freshwater aquifers, EPA regulations require Class II disposal wells to be appropriately sited. However, the industry is already handling more than 60 million barrels per day of waste water contaminated with high-levels of salt and cancer-causing chemicals, most of that from wells that would be considered “conventional” rather than fracked.

via HuffingtonPost