Water in Energy: TX, NM and CO produced water leaders collaborate at Water in Energy Conference

CBS 7 • March 6, 2024 • by Hannah Brock


  • Ashley Kegley-Whitehead, Chief Communications Officer at Infinity Water Solutions and a board member of the Water in Energy Conference, emphasized the importance of educating legislators, regulators, and the public on the significant efforts dedicated to recycling and reusing produced water.
  • Secretary James Kenney, the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Environment Department, spoke on viewing the challenges posed by produced water as opportunities for resource recovery. His perspectives illustrated how turning today’s waste into tomorrow’s resources could drive both environmental and economic benefits.

MIDLAND, Texas (KOSA) – About 500 professionals interested in water management gathered for the second day of the Permian Basin Water in Energy Conference on Wednesday.

For many of them, produced water is top of mind. The event serves as a think tank for responsible water use in the oil and gas industry. Sessions were organized by the University of Texas Permian Basin and took place at Midland’s Bush Convention Center.

The Permian Basin generates about 11 million barrels of produced water per day. Most of it is injected into subsurface layers. Those overwhelming volumes call for collaboration.

“Today’s waste coming out of the Permian Basin is tomorrow’s energy source,” said James Kenney, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Environment Department.

Viewed as an opportunity rather than a problem by the conference crowd, the potential to reuse the salty, polluted oilfield wastewater requires ideas that travel across state lines. Kenney pointed to harvesting hydrogen or other valuable elements from the complex water. Conference discussions also include produced water reuse for industrial and agricultural activities.

Discussion featuring the Colorado, Texas and New Mexico consortia led the event. That panel was followed by New Mexico leaders, who shared more about the state’s progress.

“So the problems, as well as the solutions, those challenges and opportunities are the same irrespective of what state you are in,” Kenney said.

New Mexico has led much of the framework for produced water research and regulations. Texas is close behind with an emphasis on pilot projects, but gaps in regulations for beneficial reuse.

ennifer Bradfute, author of New Mexico’s 2019 Produced Water Act, took came to the conference to discuss rulemaking.

“I really think that’s the takeaway message for Texas, it’s creating that clear line. That clear channel of responsibility over produced water,” Bradfute said. “Once you establish that then it gives way to investment. And when you have that investment, that’s when you’re going to see the more sophisticated science come in to test the safety of the water.”

The newly launched Colorado Produced Water Consortium focuses on policy alone.

“It’s building on the experiences of Texas and New Mexico, which are focused on research by using that research to inform policy development,” said Hope Dalton, director of the Colorado Produced Water Consortium.

An array of input makes the best legislation, according to New Mexico Rep. Meredith Dixon.

“It’s important that as many people are at the table as possible so that when we are crafting legislation and policy, we’re taking into account the fullest perspective,” Dixon said.

Rules are just one part of the conversation. Scientists want to characterize everything in the complex water. New Mexico consortium members say they have. From there, appropriate reuse is determined.

Overall, the conference emphasizes water management.

“It’s a critically important piece of this whole equation and it must be dealt with… if we continue to be the economic engine for our nation as far as energy,” said Richard Brantley, the conference advisory board chair.

The annual conference kicked off on Tuesday with a welcome reception. The conference will hold a final set of sessions Thursday.

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