Water is one of our world’s most important resources. It is vital for almost every aspect of life, including energy production. That is why protections have been put in place in the oil and gas industry to safeguard our water quality.
Water is a naturally occurring byproduct of oil and gas extraction. It is trapped in the same rock formations as oil and gas. In fact, the volume of produced water (water that flows out with the oil) coming out of a well is at least double that of the oil itself. This water contains high amounts of salt, organic compounds, and other naturally occurring contaminants, but can be cleaned and disposed of in safe, legal ways, in no way endangering the safety of our water systems. This issue has been around for decades, and industry as well as state and local agencies have established standards and processes by which our surface and ground water have been protected.
With the current public focus on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), there has been a resurgence of concern about how these established practices will affect water quality in our communities. The fracking process injects water, chemicals, and sand into rock formations deep in the earth to fracture rock and allow recovery of trapped oil and gas. This injected water flows back up out of the well and is captured by the well operators. This back flow has the same water quality issues as naturally occurring produced water, and is under the same requirements for disposal. The capture of produced water, both naturally occurring and back flow from injection, will continue to be performed for the life of the well. In regards to groundwater, the depth at which fracturing occurs is thousands of feet of rock away from any groundwater resources that are accessed by our communities.
Protection of our water resources will continue to be an important element of oil and gas exploration as our country moves toward energy independence and economic growth through the responsible use of our abundant natural resources.
EPA’s current regulations on water treatment in the oil and gas industry:
Land owner talks about his experience with oil and gas exploration on his land.
A snapshot of industry and regulatory standards for surface waters: