Source rock unconventional play development for both oil and gas (O&G) has become economically feasible because of two enabling technologies: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This opens a much larger hydrocarbon resource than conventional oil & gas found within traps and covers a much wider surface area than historic oil fields - often in areas unaccustomed to petroleum production and lacking the required infrastructure to support production. To generate the required drainage channels, these tight source rocks have to be fractured to generate flow paths that permit economic production. Water has become the default carrier fluid required to transport proppant required in fracking because of its relative ease of handling, low cost and wide availability. Managing the logistics of water in the supply chain can be a complex and challenging process, particularly given its close scrutiny by regulators and the public. Given the challenges and complexity however, it is still often handled by a series of spreadsheets and project planning software and usually managed under a separate production schedule due to the long lead times needed for permitting, engineering, construction, filling and the required pumps and monitoring equipment. Unlike municipal and utility water systems, water systems for well stimulation are mobile or temporary as end use points move from pad to pad during development of hundreds of wells per year per company. Sourcing, transport, use, reuse and disposal of water vary from basin to basin posing significant challenges and complexity in the management and treatment of frack and produced water.
In this paper, the authors discuss Smart Water Management (SMW) in source rock play development primarily for North American and tight oil and gas formations, but with insights that apply worldwide and to the broader field of unconventional development including coal bed methane. SMW incorporates the processes and methods used to more intelligently manage scheduling and logistics in forecasting, supply, transport, storage, use, fracking, flow-back and produced water treatment, reuse, and disposal along with solids and brine, and chemicals handling. Thus optimize water availability, minimize fresh water use, reduce the major costs and the transportation impact, and improve spill/leak detection and regulatory compliance.