Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Heads Collaboration to Study Impact, Technology Necessary for Recycling of Produced Water

George Watson

July 8, 2021

The Texas Produced Water Consortium will bring together industry, stakeholders and university expertise to grow understanding, formulate research and collaborate on options for produced water use and management in Texas.

As one of the leading agricultural research institutions in the U.S., Texas Tech University will serve as the administrator for the newly created Texas Produced Water Consortium, a collaborative effort to explore options, alternatives and potential economic impacts for the billions of gallons of produced water in Texas each year.

Produced water is water trapped in underground formations brought to the surface during oil and gas exploration and production. It also is known as brine, saltwater or formation water. Each year, oil and gas exploration generates more than 800 billion gallons of produced water – 6% of the full storage capacity of all water supply reservoirs in Texas.

The consortium, introduced to the Texas Legislature by state Sen. Charles Perry and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, will bring together diverse stakeholders, experts and key information resources to study the economic impact of and technology needed to reuse produced water, including environmental and public health considerations.


"As chairman of the Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, it has been a mission of mine to find new water resources for Texans, and specifically, our rural and agriculture communities,” Perry said. “Water is a finite resource, and produced water has the potential to inject millions of acre-feet into an area of the state that exists in persistent drought. I have confidence that through a robust stakeholder process, Texas Tech can navigate these new waters and develop one or more pilot projects to lead the nation in innovation.”

The primary challenge presented by produced water is its high salt content. Options to use this water for alternative purposes beyond oil and gas operations have been neither fully understood nor capitalized upon. More importantly, alternative uses for produced water could provide significant water resources in drought-stricken areas and those relying on diminishing water resources like the Ogallala Aquifer.

“Texas Tech has long recognized the importance of water resources for sustaining economic growth and sensitive ecosystems of the Southern High Plains,” said Joseph A. Heppert, vice president for research and innovation at Texas Tech. “Here in West Texas, we are experiencing firsthand the increasing demands on our nation's water supply. We are developing technologies that will provide potable water to rural communities, and we are working with community stakeholders in the adoption of those practices and technologies.”

The consortium will be responsible for producing a report that will outline a model for the economical and efficient use of produced water that does not harm the public or environment and will lead to greater use, reducing the freshwater footprint in the state of Texas. The report also will include a plan for an economic and technological pilot program for a statewide facility designed to recycle produced water.

In addition to consortium members, the Texas Produced Water Consortium will consist of a stakeholder advisory council and a government agency advisory council. The stakeholder advisory council will include member representatives from the oil and gas industry, agricultural water users, industrial water users, environmental interests, public water utilities, landowners, groundwater owners and commercial water recyclers and midstream companies.

The government agency advisory council will include members from the Texas Railroad Commission, the State Energy Conservation Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Economic Development & Tourism Department, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Water Development Board.

Texas Tech will appoint members to a technical and economic steering committee that will provide expertise and determine the direction of future research to be funded by the consortium.

“Texas Tech has the expertise and infrastructure to facilitate the development of the Texas Produced Water Consortium,” said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. “We look forward to the opportunity to bring together and facilitate roundtable discussions between state agencies, industry and municipalities on the feasibility and potential challenges of converting produced water to potable water.”

Texas Tech will be responsible for providing staff and resources so the consortium can carry out its duties. It also will consult with the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium and its governmental advisory board on research, data and other related matters while also coordinating with other members of state university systems and agencies to provide necessary resources.

Once the report is produced, the consortium may continue to study the economic, environmental and public health considerations of the benefits of produced water and the technology needed to render it safe for broader use.