Abstract

The rapid rise of oil production from unconventional resources due to the increase in oil demand brings several potential risks to the environment. Governments strictly regulate the oil field water use, treatment, and disposal to reduce both the environmental and the public health effects. Hence, exploration and production companies face several challenges mainly for the management of produced water originated from any water injection processes. On a global scale, the average water cut has increased to nearly 75%. And in the U.S., the water cut is even higher (i.e., 91%) which results in a severe reduction in revenue. The average cost for handling and disposing water can range from $0.50 to $16.80 per barrel of water. In fact, the oil and gas industry in the U.S. spends $5-10 billion per year for the handling of the produced water. Furthermore, this cost does not take into account the loss of hydrocarbons due to the excess production of water. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new technologies for oil and gas production which will reduce (i) the water use for the sustainability of the water resources, (ii) the environmental and health effects of the produced water and (iii) the enormous costs of the produced water management. This paper evaluates both the current strategies and future trends that are followed in the U.S. to manage the produced waters originated from hydraulic fracturing, water flooding, and steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). The paper first summarizes the water injection projects in the U.S. Then, the quantitative impact of each process to the human health and environment along with the differences in the quality of the produced water due to the rock-fluid interactions and the additives used in the processes are discussed. Finally, the industrial attempts on the produced water management for the reduction in water use, reuse of the produced water, and the water treatment are examined. This paper provides a critical review on current and future trends of the produced water management. The short and long term effects to the environment due to the rapid changes in the quality of the water resources are criticized.

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