News Release

Release Date: June 06, 2017

Water-Management Tool May Help Turn Waste into a Resource


With project-management support from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the Colorado School of Mines and New Mexico State University have completed a project culminating in a new online water-management tool called the Decision Support Tool (DST), which can suggest treatment options for produced water and fracturing flowback—water that has been injected into shale formations as part of hydraulic fracturing operations that later emerges with minerals, organic matter, salts, and added chemicals. The tool will help minimize potential impacts of oil and natural gas production on natural water resources, public health, aquatic life, and the environment through informed decision-making.

The recent boom in unconventional gas production, namely shale gas, has provided the nation with an affordable and abundant energy source, but these operations require large amounts of water, which many regions of the United States lack. A potential way for the gas industry to reduce the amount of freshwater it consumes is to treat and reuse produced water and fracturing flowback, turning a waste into a potential resource.

The DST will enable producers, regulators, consultants, and other users to characterize, treat, beneficially use, and manage produced water and fracturing flowback. It accomplishes this by simulating logical treatment sequences for various types of source water, while offering additional flexibility by considering additional influencing factors such as percent water recovery and temperature.

The unique system allows users to include or exclude treatment technologies and provides an option to the user to generate a single best treatment sequence option or up to three alternative treatment sequence options. The tool can also be used to compare costs of re-using produced waters versus disposing of the produced water, giving operators information needed to determine an economic break-even point for treatment relative to disposal under site-specific conditions.

Additional information about the project and the DST can be found here, including the final report and several supporting documents for the tool.