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Partners aim to solve ‘produced water’ dilemma

Oil and gas production creates large amounts of waste water that must be treated before being reused. A Wyoming company and a West Texas farm believe they have developed a solution to do just that. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A partnership between an agriculture company and a West Texas farm could create a solution to the Permian Basin’s oil and gas waste water dilemma, and the region’s scarce water supplies for farming and ranching.

Produced water is brought up to the surface during extraction. Traditionally, that water is pumped back underground via an injection well, and some oil and gas producers found ways to treat the water to a quality that could be reused in hydraulic fracturing. But as fracking and the American oil and gas industry boomed in the desert region of southeast New Mexico and West Texas – an area bright spotalso known for heavy agricultural activity – scientists, companies and government agencies began studying how to treat and reuse produced water outside of oil and gas.

Wyoming-based Encore Green Environmental and Wilson Farms of Midkiff, Texas, plan to use solar energy to treat the water and use it to grow crops at the cotton farm.

The companies announced their own memorandum of understanding on Monday and Encore CEO Marvin Nash said they had a meeting with the New Mexico consortium.

Nash said the company has acquired permitting to put the treated produced water on the ground in Wyoming and is hoping to do the same in New Mexico.

The technology would be developed at Wilson Farms, and Encore is seeking engineers and technological partners to begin developing the idea.

Encore’s process would see the solar panels heat up produced water, creating steam, which would turn a turbine, creating energy. Then, the condensation left from the steam would be cleaned to a high enough standard to be used to water crops. Any leftover brine would still be disposed for injection.

The process could be affordable to farmers as they could accrue solar credit for adding to the electrical grid, while also collecting disposal fees from company’s supplying the waste water.