As a Water Resources Engineer, I’ve seen how difficult it can be to accurately estimate potential yields – a necessary step in determining viability of a water source.  In response, I developed a specialized software program that can assist LRE’s clients in estimating water yields from unconventional oil and gas (UCOG) wells and provide decision support on water management issues both before and after well completion.  This tool automates the analytical processes used to calculate flowback and produced water volumes and incorporates these water volumes into an analysis of the overall water needs for the development which:

  • Improves efficiencies;
  • Reduces risk, and most importantly;
  • Reduces capital expenditures for the development

By quantifying and optimizing water management strategies, operators reduce both their water costs and associated risks with developing water infrastructure. Constant changes and variability in oil and gas field developments means risky investments for water supply, large-scale water management infrastructure, and treatment and reuse, especially when commodity prices are low.  Moreover, the variability of the volume of the flowback and produced water recovered on a per-well basis creates challenges for water planning and infrastructure design during field development if these volumes are not correctly modeled and analyzed.

LRE uses this software to assist clients in the modeling of anticipated water volumes for a UCOG field and analyze how different scenarios will impact key parameters, such as capital and operating cost, trucking miles, risks of spills, water reuse potential, blending/treatment needs, and CO2 emissions. These models are incorporated into a single graphical user interface (GUI) that is customized to our client’s UCOG field and specific needs in the area (e.g. schools, sensitive habitats).

The flexibility built into the GUI gives clients instant visualization of the impact a specific decision has on key parameters. For example, if an operator is considering treatment and reuse of flowback and produced water in the field, because of concern with costs, induced seismicity, and future regulatory risks associated with disposal in Class II injection wells, this alternative can be quickly compared with current disposal practices in the model. Key parameters are instantly quantified and can be used to help inform the operator determine the best water management strategy.

Currently, these water management alternative comparisons are made on a case-by-case basis that requires working through time-intensive assumptions and calculations for each alternative. By speeding up and quantifying the decision-making process, several scenarios and field development strategies can be rapidly compared and screened.  The cost and time involved with preliminary engineering design and water management planning can decrease dramatically, saving our clients both time and money.


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