IPEC 2019: Moving Beyond Induced Seismicity in the Permian, Water Solutions for the Future

July 25, 2019

Featured speaker at IPEC 2019 – James Lawrence, P.G.

Induced seismicity due to oil and gas waste fluid disposal wells has been documented in several shale basins in the U.S. and in the Permian Basin, as reported by the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program. The induced seismicity observed in the Permian Basin is attributed to Type II disposal wells used to dispose of produced fluids resulting from oil and gas drilling.

The Texas Railroad Commission adopted rule amendments in October 2014 to address permitting of disposal wells in areas of induced seismicity. The rule amendments impose new requirements on those seeking disposal well permits in certain areas subject to induced seismicity such as the Delaware Basin. The Texas Railroad Commission also issued guidelines for their staff to evaluate disposal well permit applications in areas of seismic activity. The new guidelines describe an A, B, and C seismic hazard ranking system, and describe conditions, which may warrant Fault Slip Potential modeling.

Although Permian Basin oil and gas waste fluid volumes are now substantially increasing, proportional to rapid increases in oil and gas production, induced seismicity has become an important constraint that will prevent proportionally increasing the capacity of this historically primary method of disposing of waste fluids. Therefore, alternatives are required.

New approaches are now being rapidly implemented that will reduce dependence on disposal wells for oil and gas waste fluids. Fundamental to this major industry shift is turning a waste into a commodity: what was waste fluid is now captured for recycling purposes. This approach was in the early stages even before induced seismicity was widely recognized in the Permian Basin; induced seismicity issues will now add impetus to the build-out of the recycling infrastructure that is underway. This waste fluid management and recycling infrastructure are generally referred to as the water midstream industry.

The reuse of waste fluids that were previously disposed of in wells generally requires treatment to remove constituents such as iron, bacteria, H2S, and total suspended solids. This part of the water midstream industry is rapidly expanding to meet the challenge of effective water treatment in a way that does not adversely affect the economics of recycling.

The water midstream industry is so new that many people are not familiar with the term. The Texas Railroad Commission is in charge of permitting this new type of commercial oil and gas waste fluid recycling facility and has to strike a balance between environmental protections for the facility while recognizing that this alternative to disposal wells is a fundamental improvement for the environment. The water midstream industry is rapidly permitting and building out the infrastructure for a Permian Basin-wide, interconnected recycling system. As this new system matures, disposal well use will decline, which will likely lead to a reduction in induced seismicity.


Meet Jim Lawrence, P.G. and Project Director at SCS Engineers

Visit with James Lawrence of SCS Engineers and learn more about reducing dependence on disposal wells and new waste fluid management approaches at IPEC 2019.









Posted by Diane Samuels at 11:53 am
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