Water is becoming an increasingly important issue in the world and particularly for the petroleum industry. The purpose of this paper is to outline some of the challenges before the petroleum industry and their need to play a key role to ensure water sustainability.
As an oil and gas industry, we are both producers and consumers of water. In the future, it may become an important license—to—operate issue. On the upstream side, we generally produce more water than oil (worldwide about three times more). Historically it has been a nuisance by-product that we pay to dispose of. With environmental regulations tightening and as we pursue more Enhance Oil Recovery (EOR) projects, water supply and quality cannot be overlooked. On the downstream side of the business, we are primarily a user of water — both as process water in the desalter units and as cooling water. In some communities we do business at, we are already starting to compete with the domestic and agriculture users of water. Therefore, we must focus on water much more than we have in the past.
ConocoPhillips Global Water Sustainability Center in Doha (Qatar) will coordinate our effort to develop and evaluate innovative solutions. Any solutions that benefit ConocoPhillips (COP) will also benefit Qatar Petroleum (QP) and the industry in general.
Two third of our planet is mainly water and 97.5% of it is salty (sea water); only 2.5% is fresh water and not all of it can be used for direct human uses. From the 2.5% of fresh water, approximately 70% is frozen as glaciers or polar ice; leaving only less than 1% of the total volume of fresh water accessible for human uses (e.g. rivers, lakes and groundwater) and most of the times, water sources are not clean enough.(1) Moreover, the availability of fresh water in the world is not evenly distributed. In places like deserts, the rainfall is very low and the water sources are scarce, so new water treatment strategies as well as water conservation programs are required.
Water uses can be classified in three main categories: agriculture, industrial and domestic. Around the world, on average, 8% of water is used for domestic, 22% is used for industrial applications, and 70% is used for agriculture. However, the developed world uses more water for industries than for agriculture as shown in Figure 1. (2)