The Delaware Basin encompasses 6.4 million acres throughout Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. With large players such as ExxonMobil, Shell or Oxy typically grabbing headlines, it's easy to forget the multitude of smaller public and private E&P operators who exist in and around the acreage positions of the aforementioned companies. Regardless of the size of the acreage holding, a consistent theme is that a typical horizontal well drilled and completed (D&C) will yield water cuts of 60-90% at any given period in its productive lifespan.

Saltwater production, handling and disposal (SWD) is a drag on lease operating expenses (LOE). SWD costs via trucking, pipeline, or on-lease SWD wells can range between $0.50-$3.00/bbl. As existing infrastructure is exhausted, water handling costs have been projected to rise to over $5.00/bbl. Additionally, restricted access to SWD could cause production curtailments and thus impacting operators beyond direct LOE.1 

Well completion operations are impacted by freshwater procurement costs starting around $0.75/bbl. Regardless of final frac design, water consumption during fracturing operations typically exceeds 500,000 bbls or $375,000 per well. Significant value exists for recycling produced water via an on-lease pit and utilizing it for future frac operations. The produced water turns into an asset if the operator can efficiently manage to substitute higher and higher percentages of freshwater with produced water.

Many smaller operators (defined as less than 50,000 acres) may view produced water recycling as an operation best left to large E&P's with their massive capital budgets and contiguous acreage. Fortunately, even a 5 well, section development plan can yield returns from an on-lease produced water recycling program.

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.