The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week announced a new study of current oil and gas wastewater management requirements to help determine if new regulations are necessary.
EPA’s current guidelines cover E&P effluent onshore at the wellhead and at centralized wastewater treatment facilities. But as one EPA official told The Oil & Gas Journal, there are no regulations regarding the reuse of water in the oil field or its disposal in Class II underground injection control (UIC) wells.
A major aim of the study is to help EPA understand if broad support exists among states for allowing more expansive wastewater discharge. States that are rich in oil and gas but poor in surface water sources have already expressed an interest in treating produced water for reuse in subsequent hydraulic fracturing or in applications for other water-intensive industries. New Mexico, for example, is already working with EPA to understand the legal, scientific and regulatory issues related to its produced water reuse.
Oil and gas industry officials from around the US have expressed a commitment to reusing wastewater rather than reinjecting it underground—in particular, drought-prone regions like the Permian basin, which is also beginning to experience limited injection well capacity in some areas.
Injection well capacity, and its relation to formation pressurization, is discussed in detail in EnergyMakers Advisory Group’s Underground Injection Risk Report.
The EPA intends to produce a white paper highlighting the study’s findings in early 2019. Check back with EnergyMakers for updates on the study and EPA’s future regulatory plans.