This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Judy Feder, contains highlights of paper SPE 199498, “Reuse of Produced Water in the Oil and Gas Industry,” by Madeleine Gray, International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, prepared for the 2020 SPE International Conference and Exhibition on Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainability, originally scheduled to be held in Bogota, Colombia, 28-30 July. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

The onshore oil and gas industry investigates new and improved ways to manage the supply and disposal of produced water continually. Within oil and gas operations, produced water increasingly is being recycled and reused for enhanced oil recovery, drilling, and well stimulation. The growing global demand for water resources also is creating interest in reusing produced water outside oil and gas operations. The complete paper focuses on sources of produced water from conventional and unconventional onshore oil and gas operations and addresses the challenges and opportunities associated with reusing the produced water.


Produced water is water that is brought to surface during oil and natural-gas production. It includes formation, flowback, and condensation water. Produced water varies in composition and volume from one formation to another and is often managed as a waste material requiring disposal. In recent years, increased demand for, and regional variability of, available water resources, along with sustainable water-supply planning, have driven interest in reusing produced water with or without treatment to meet requirements within the industry or by external users.

Reuse of produced water can provide important economic, social, and environmental benefits, particularly in water-scarce regions. It can be used for hydraulic fracturing, waterflooding, and enhanced oil recovery, decreasing the demand for other sources of water. However, reuse for offsite, non-oilfield applications such as crop irrigation, wildlife and livestock consumption, industrial processes, and power generation, is subject to a variety of constraints and risks. Practical considerations for offsite reuse include supply and demand and regulatory, infrastructural, economic, legal, social, and environmental factors.

Sources, Chemical Properties, and Management of Produced Water

The information contained in the paper is based on an internal survey conducted by the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) of 14 of its member companies, interviews with selected external stakeholders covering a range of sectors and geographic regions, and a literature review of readily available information. The external stakeholders were identified from the membership survey as well as from IPIECA and consultant experience.

Sources and Volumes. Onshore oil and gas operations generate millions of barrels of produced water each day world-wide. The composition and flow of produced water can differ dramatically from one source to another.

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