Water for the unconventional Exploration and Appraisal (E&A) lifecycle, from Spud to Plug and Abandon, has always presented a fundamental challenge. None more so than the recent major unconventional play of Queensland's (QLD) Coal Seam Gas (CSG).

Water management has always been an important surface component of E&A, from supporting drilling and stimulation effort, through to managing production water. However, in Queensland, water became a critical obstacle, initially driven by compliance and stakeholder issues. It became apparent methodologies from North America and even the conventional Central Australia experiences did not offer solutions to the challenge. Water issues from both regulator and landholders were more significant than expected. The consequence of this led to delays in data acquisition and significant cost escalation of planned E&A activity. Ultimately the boarder industry responded to the challenge by understanding the issues, then applying a fair amount of innovation.

Moving forward the general challenge still stands for new unconventional plays. Solving this requires recognition that water management is often a localized issue. Particularly as many new unconventional resources are in remote and isolated areas, with little supporting infrastructure. The McArthur Basin Shale Gas Play, in Australia is an obvious example.

This paper presents the challenges and learnings in E&A water management from the QLD CSG experience. One of the key learnings is that planning was critical. In recognition of that fact, a simple five-part water field development planning tool is proposed to support successful E&A. With costs of E&A now more important than ever, and not withstanding the enduring need to maintain the operator's license to operate (both regulator and community), getting all aspects water management right is a fundamental key to success.

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