WOODWARD — Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc. next month will become the latest oil and natural gas producer to build a water recycling and processing facility in the state.
The company is building recycling centers in Garvin and Stephens counties, where they will support Continental’s rapidly expanding drilling effort in the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province, or SCOOP.
“In designing our water recycling facilities, we wanted to reuse water without detrimentally affecting our wells,” Continental Resources engineer Anthony Luvera said Thursday at the Tri-State Oil and Gas Convention in Woodward. “It took some planning, but we finally got there.”
Like many others in the industry, Continental is trying to find the balance between reducing freshwater use while holding down operating costs.
The two recycling facilities are expected to cut the company’s freshwater consumption in half for the wells tied into the facility. Continental has spent about $25 million on the two systems and expects the facilities to pay for themselves in about three years, Luvera said.
Facilities like what Continental is building in southern Oklahoma are most feasible when companies have large, ongoing drilling programs in relatively small areas, Luvera said.
“Ultimately, we’re running a business,” he said. “We wish we could be recycling in every area we get into. But the reality is that often it doesn’t make economic sense. It will seldom make any economic sense unless it is in an area where we are drilling multiple wells per section.”
The new recycling facilities include storage tanks where residual oil is removed and a large, lined pit, where the water is further cleaned and processed over about seven days.
A dual system of underground pipes carries produced water from the wells to the recycling facility and cleaned water from the recycling facility to the next wells undergoing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Besides reducing freshwater use, the facility also reduces the number of trucks needed to deliver water to the well sites, Luvera said.
Oklahoma Energy and Environment Secretary Michael Teague on Thursday praised Continental and others in the industry for taking the lead in water recycling and savings projects.
“You are not the biggest user of water, but you are the most innovative industry in the state,” Teague said. “We need your help. We have to think about solutions.”
The oil and natural gas industry represented less than 3 percent of the state’s total water usage last year, but the ongoing drought has put pressure on all water users to conserve.
Besides the large-scale recycling facilities, companies also are looking for less-expensive options that could save water and money over time. One focus is on reducing evaporation from the water ponds used throughout the state for both drilling and agriculture.
“It would astound you the amount of water we lose from evaporation in these ponds in the summer,” said Rick McCurdy, manager of chemicals and water reclamation at Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Companies are experimenting with covers that will pay for themselves within a year by limiting evaporation and reducing water costs, he said.
Oklahoma is three years into a drought that Teague says mirrors the drought experienced in the 1950s.
A wetter-than-normal summer has eased the situation somewhat, but most of western Oklahoma is still experiencing drought conditions. Teague pointed out that the 1950s drought lasted seven years with a relatively wet year in the middle.